Wisconsin? are you really serious that there is a chase target in northern Wisconsin/Michigan? Hmm...let us just think about that for a second. No thanks! Wisconsin is terrible to chase with hills, trees and barely any viewing, so not only is it horrible for seeing storms, but with a risk of strong tornadoes its not a safe prospect either. Its also a damn long way from where we were in Hays, Kansas. So instead, with the weakening cold front trailing through Iowa into Missouri and eastern Kansas we decided to target east of Emporia, Kansas. In this area there looked to be the potential for a tail-end charlie type storm, a storm that has nothing to obstruct the energy and inflow to its south and can produce great structure, and sometimes if your are lucky a tornado.
When you have low to no expectations of anything great from the day, sometimes you get a nice surprise and after hours of waiting in the taget area a storm finally popped only a few miles to our southwest. It took some time to get organised so in the meantime we decided to punch through its core to see if we could find any hail. As we made it back through the storm we popped out to see a wallcloud right in front of us, but this was just the start.
|'Run Away' - Running away from the initial wall cloud and potential hail core. Photo: John|
The storm continued to organise with several areas of impressive structure and displayed a fantastic rain foot under its now clearly rotating base. We continued to move east with the storm, getting a little more distance using the interstate to get a view of the now awesome striated structure as it was bearing down on us.
|'On the Interstate' - The storm begins to develop a more organised structure with an impressive rainfoot to the left. Photo: John.|
With the sun beginning to set we kept running east, getting some gorgeous sunset colours illuminating the structure as it became very lightning active.
|'Striated Structure' - The storm continues to look better and better as the low level jet begins to feed its exposed southern edge. Photo: John|
|'High Tailing' - Running away to get position for the best structure on the final push of sunset. Photo: John.|
|John shooting on sunset. Photo: Brad.|
Cloud to ground lightning began to get more and more intense, with the barrage getting closer and closer. We had a few bolts strike in the sub 100m range at the end of the road we were on, including one captured in a photo that appears to strike Brad in the head and makes him seem to fade away!
|Brad scores an amazing bolt at the end of the road. Shame he changed his camera angle to the left seconds before. Photo: Brad.|
|'Zapped to Oblivion' - Brad gets illuminated and appears to fade into nothing as this CG lands 100m down the road. Photo: John.|
|A very nice CG strikes to our west from the weakening storm. Photo: Brad.|
We repositioned to chase down this barrage as it moved east and later as we were taking pictures, John felt the most peculiar static charging of his hair, making him hit the ground moments before an enormous cloud-ground strike hit less than 30 metres away with an arc to powerlines 5 metres away. The bolt was so close that it even appeared in pictures with the camera pointing in the opposite direction, and lit up the night sky like daylight.
|'Right Behind' - You know the CG is close when you get the arc leaders overhead and have your whole world lit up facing away from the bolt. Certainly a touch adrenaline pumping. Photo: John.|
So now a little more cautious (certainly gets the heart racing) we continued to shoot lightning, ending the day on a high, with the closest lightning strikes either of us have had the priveledge to see. We stopped for the night in Ottawa, KS knowing that it wasn't a massive drive the next day to be in position for what looked to be a potentially potent tornado day.