STORM CHASING 2015-2016

In my excitement and with the Darling Downs primed for "storms likely possibly severe" (according to the BoM) I headed out early. Way too early. Even after the two hour drive to Allora the sky was any other person's idyllic deep blue with an even distribution of puffy white clouds.

I couldn't quite see how "possibly severe" could be pegged for the Darling Downs. All the numbers spelled storms but they weren't over the top. Instability was nice, moisture was good, and shear was average. Although in hindsight, I did miss some excellent "supercellular" shear progged for around midnight in the southern Downs which would bring a southerly change. If I was a proper forecaster I would've realised that little was to happen during the day with all the action occuring after dark.

Meanwhile, Allora's local country café's hearty scones could only distract me for so long before I grew restless wondering whether the BoM had got it wrong again. Activity S of Beaudesert fired up and taunted me now that I was W of the range. I chased every cloud that looked like it was breaking the cap (weather speak for pushing through a warm layer of air just above the surface). This tail-chasing lured me from Allora NE over the range to Ma Ma Creek and Laidley and S again. The area around Boonah was also firing up so I could ignore that area no longer.

I stopped around Dugandan (S of Boonah):

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I thought things were finally go when this cell just collapsed. Another to its W took off, as did a punchy new line to the NE so I raced back W over the range (for the second time today) stopping near Maryvale. This new one W of Boonah let out only occasional weak lightning flashes:

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I thought victory was finally at hand but not even this storm could manage a CG (cloud-to-ground lightning bolt). I was pretty damn antsy after six hours of pointless chasing already, when some flashes started throughout the new flanking line to the N/NE and also from a new cell W of Stanthorpe. I figured this stuff would die before I could get close but I had to go for it so I sped off W towards the New England Hwy.

The storm cluster to the N was defintely more active but most of it was already E of Toowoomba back down the range. This taunting was relentless. I stubbornly took off N anyway when more storms finally popped up W of the range. Desperate for a photo I stopped near Allora (again) when I finally bagged some forks:

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Finally some bolts! If everything died now, at least I had some bolts. I remember feeling relatively satisfied with the above shot. I continued N, stopping at the Clifton turnoff for another cell that had just popped up even closer to my NW. Then nature finally turned it on:

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I was able to sit here for at least half an hour without rain watching these awesome bolts drop in front of me.. a rare pleasure. And because why not, here's a composite image of the above bolts:

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And if that's not lightningy enough for you, here's a crop, emphasising the branchy goodness:

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There was a big line approaching from the W with some chunky lowerings only visible from a distance. I headed towards it and also for a gap in the precip as a huge bolted dropped W of Clifton:

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Then more bolts from the main line behind it:

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I skipped forward to Ryeford as the rain and more great lightning bolts landed.

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At this point it was raining quite heavily so I retreated to the car. There was another gap in rain before the main line approached so I relocated and was rapt to just make out a shelf cloud ahead of the approaching squall line:

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Considering how intense the line looked from a distance I wasn't keen to get caught inside it, so I raced back E, stopping when I could for photos:

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All the discrete cells were merging with the squall line and spreading out, so there was no chance of outrunning it. I was surrounded and enveloped by it.

Somehow the rain was light enough for me to duck out for more lightning photos as the main activity headed over and to the NE:

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Unable to avoid the rain any longer, my chase was pretty much done - and I would go home happy after the brilliant display. I could head S for a quicker trip home to Mundoolun or follow the main activity NE over the range. There was actually a little rain-free doughnut hole on the radar around Gatton. If I could race down the Gatton-Clifton Rd (for the second time today as well), I could just make it. It was folly of course, considering the windy hilly nature of the main part of the range. It was rather a treacherous drive in the end as the heavy rain sat over me as I proceeded NE through the jungle with partial mudslides over the road.

Prepared to call it a night I finally emerged from the rain around Haigslea. It felt luxurious and smooth to be driving a flat well-graded road with no rain. With lightning persisting behind me, I pulled up briefly at Haigslea for one more stop:

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Total kms: 657. Strangely, even by the time it was all said and done, our house had seen hardly any rain.