We have decided to start off 2020 and a new decade with our top 10 favorite storm-chasing moments from the last decade. There have been so many incredible storms throughout that time and it was very difficult to narrow this down to ten storms. Without further ado, we present our storm winners!
Coming in at number 10 is "The Little Storm That Could". Taken 7-7-17 during monsoon season, we found ourselves chasing in northwest Arizona. The landscapes out there are vast and beautiful. We found a storm, set up on it and then proceeded to sit in that same spot for the next three hours as multiple storms built, literally in every direction. We found ourselves in a small, protected pocket and never once got rained on. We love chases like this ... instead of constantly driving between storms, we get to just sit and really enjoy the storms. As sunset neared this little storm began to form right in front of us. We watched from inception and since it stayed almost completely stationary, we were able to see it's entire life cycle. It was a tiny storm but it sure packed in a lot of beauty. From structure, to color, to lightning and even a faint rainbow, the "Little Storm That Could" had everything. This still ranks as one of our favorite chase days and just goes to show, the storm doesn't have to be massive in scale to be incredible!
Coming in at number 9 is "Jaws". Taken 9.27.14 this monsoon transition event took place in central Phoenix, Arizona and it was a whopper of a storm! Unlike most monsoonal storms, this was a huge squall line covering a very large area. It was violent and long-lasting, bringing with it torrential rain, exceptionally strong winds and a lot of hail. It had a great shelf cloud and the blue-green hail core was mesmerizing. This was taken just as the shelf cloud approached and we liked the way the clouds look like open jaws ready to eat this Scottsdale mountain. Definitely one of the most memorable storms of the past decade!
Coming in at number 8 is "Dali's Storm". Taken 8.21.17 this storm was actually a happy accident. We weren't technically storm chasing but instead, were teaching an astrophotography workshop in Death Valley. On our last night we headed out for our sunset/night shoot and instead of the normal clear skies we are accustomed to in Death Valley, we saw that it was quite stormy on the horizon. We started looking at radar and saw a large, severe-warned cell moving south of the salt flats so we headed there and set up to capture it as it passed by. We all watched in awe as it swirled and lit up with beautiful sunset light. The structure was so unique and reminded us of a Dali painting. We have been to Death Valley countless times and this was such a treat to see. Definitely one of our favorite storms ever and it wasn't even on the Great Plains!
Coming in at number 7 is “Stranger Things”. This memorable storm taken 5.23.18 in Roswell, New Mexico. The Roswell area saw several days of severe weather during this time and we intercepted this gorgeous supercell on our last day in the Plains for 2018. It was a classic LP supercell with incredible structure and color and the mammatus clouds were icing on the cake! What a great way to end our chase for that season!
Coming in at number 6 is "A Little Too Close". Taken 8.1.18 in Camp Verde, Arizona, we had a front row seat to a spectacular lighting storm. Then, this lightning bolt hit ... a little too close for comfort! This image is not cropped and it was taken with a 14mm lens, so that gives an idea of how close this strike was. Needless to say, after it hit we looked at the back of our camera, jumped for joy that we caught it and then promptly took cover in our car. One of our favorite lightning strikes ever!
Coming in at number 5 is “Bubbles and Windmills”. This photo of mammatus clouds was taken 5.18.17 in Weatherford, Oklahoma. Incredibly, the day before this was taken we were all the way out in Yosemite National Park in California. This was a high risk day so we drove through most of the night with only a short stop to rest and arrived in Oklahoma just in time .... to miss all the big action and tornadoes. We caught up to the back side of the storms but just couldn't get to the other side as they were moving so fast. Feeling tired and defeated we almost gave up and then we saw a few mammatus clouds forming out in the distance. We decided to see if we could salvage the day and caught up to them. They were starting to fill the sky and looked beautiful with gorgeous structure, like giant bubbles. We frantically began looking for some sort of foreground and came to these windmills ... perfect! This mammatus display lasted nearly three hours and didn't end until the sun went down. It went through every color of the rainbow from the cool blue tones in this photos to lighting up in vivid shades of yellow, red and pink as the sun broke through and began to set. It turned out to be the most spectacular display of mammatus clouds we have ever witnessed and we went from almost crying to feeling elated! Turned out, all the effort to get to the central plains was well worth it in the end. The lesson ... never give up when storm chasing - ever!
Coming in at number 4 is “Once In A Lifetime”. This was the single most incredible rainbow we have ever seen ... and it was at the Grand Canyon no less! Storm chasing at the Grand Canyon is risky business for many reasons, several of which we experienced on this day near the end of Arizona's monsoon season, 9.2.16. Lightning is the most obvious risk and we saw plenty on this day. At one point I (Tina) got a good shock from one that came from an approaching storm to our south. In other words, one we couldn't see because it was obscured by trees. Clearly, it wasn't a direct hit but it did simultaneously set off my lightning trigger, pull some of my hair straight in the air and burn it and send a jolt of electricity through my body. Not real pleasant ... in fact it was down right frightening! There were about twenty other people standing near me and that was everyone’s cue to take immediate cover. Kevin and I waited it out in our car. Eventually a small break opened to the west near sunset and light poured through the rain-filled sky. We got back out to see if there might be a rainbow and this was what we were greeted with ... one of the single most beautiful sights we have ever laid eyes on. Since it was still raining steadily, our next obstacle was not to slip on the very wet edge of a precipice that plunged hundreds of feet below us. We chose to find a good rock to sit on and stayed there to take our photos. This rainbow lasted for almost 30 minutes and the best part ... not another person in sight. Never in our wildest dreams did we think we would see something like this when we made the choice that day to go to the canyon. An absolutely magical day of storm chasing!
Coming in at number 3 is “A Giant Dusty Kiss” and the single most incredible haboob we have ever seen!!! This dust storm on 7.9.18 was a true monster, among the top two largest dust storms to ever hit Arizona since keeping records and one we will never forget. At full maturity it reached a height over a mile high and it traveled an astonishing two hundred plus miles southwest across the Arizona desert, not dying until after it crossed into California. We chased this haboob for three hours and throughout most of it's life cycle. It was amazing to have so many bites at the apple and to see so many incarnations of this gorgeous storm. At one point we got caught in it and it was absolutely apocalyptic! Day instantly went to night and we literally couldn't see the hood of our car. We spent the next hour trying desperately to pull back out of it as sunset quickly neared. Just as we were about to give up we burst through and in an instant night turned to day again. It was like passing through a wall (guess it was a wall when you think about it, a wall of dust, but amazing how dense a wall of dust can be). The sky to the west was clear and in that instant we looked back to see a now fully mature, well structured, towering haboob bathed in the pink hues of sunset! One of the most epic chase days we have ever experienced!
Coming in at number 2 is “Kansas City Disaster” and the devastating Kansas City wedge tornado. We made our way to Kansas on 5.28.19 for what looked like a very active day of severe weather with the area under and enhanced risk. We intercepted a storm a couple of hours southwest of Kansas City and fairly soon after, a tornado touched down but was rain-wrapped so we couldn't see it. We stayed with the storm for several hours, following it all the way to Kansas City. The tornado continued and grew into an F4 monster by the time it reached Linwood on the outskirts of Kansas City, but we still hadn't seen it because it was buried so deep in rain. As we made our way past the downtown area and to the northeast side of Kansas City into Missouri, still in pouring rain, we decided to give up because it was almost dark. Just after that decision, we made our way through a neighborhood to start heading out of the storm. As we looked through a small break between the trees, there it was ... the tornado we had been trying to catch a glimpse of for hours (we might mention, to this point we hadn't taken a single photo the entire day). Can't really describe the feeling of seeing a monster like this, especially in such close proximity (about a half-mile). We watched it as it passed by our little window between the trees and like that, it was gone, again covered by trees. We stayed in place because we knew it's path was probably going to intersect the road we were on just ahead of us and that it did. After it passed by, we drove forward to see large trees broken in half, power poles and lines down and roof and siding damage to houses. We felt very lucky this tornado revealed itself to us as not many people actually saw this one … very lucky indeed!
Coming in at number 1 is “The Imperial Supercell”. Memorial day 2019 brought with it the most incredible supercell we have ever seen. Known as the "Imperial Supercell" because of it's proximity to Imperial, NE, this storm had many different variations in appearance and color throughout it's life cycle and left everyone who saw it in absolute awe! We started the day on a completely different storm near Sterling, Colorado (that one was beautiful, too) but soon abandoned that one in favor of a small cell forming to our south that would eventually become the "Imperial Supercell". We caught up with it quickly and were able to see it from it's early stages. It had beautiful color at that point with nice structure but each time we re-positioned we would get out of the car to see something different and more extraordinary. This cycle happened several times over until we finally got to this location to marvel at this phase of the storm. It had become perfectly sculpted and was now a fully mature beast. Words can't adequately express the wonder we felt standing in the face of something like this! 5.27.19 was not only a highlight of 2019, but a highlight of our entire storm chasing career giving it the distinction of being our choice for top storm of the past decade!