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Alberta storm chase this week


Roger J Smith

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Posted
  • Location: Rossland BC Canada
  • Location: Rossland BC Canada

    Alberta storm chase Aug 7-8

    We've decided to combine our vacation with a storm chase opportunity that appears fairly promising from the 48-72h forecast models currently available. My better half has consented to place herself in harm's way, knowing that if we go on holiday we are bound to get hit by a storm in any case, so why not at least look for a good one?

    The models are showing a fairly robust trough digging its way into a warm ridge over western Canada starting late Monday but really getting quite active later on Tuesday by which time both the cold front and the storm chasers should be in southeastern BC (we are leaving Monday morning). After that, the front is supposed to drift slowly but surely across southern Alberta which as you've already seen from some excellent photos on NW, is prime severe weather country in the high summer season. At present we're thinking of setting up around Lethbridge early on Wednesday and using the internet to finalize our positioning for what will hopefully be some active weather. We'll be able to cross over into Montana if necessary, but with any luck we will be seeing some active weather between Lethbridge and Medicine Hat in southern Alberta on Wednesday afternoon.

    That's about the extent of our time window as we need to head back to Vancouver on Thursday and Friday. If the storm chase doesn't work out too well, at least we'll be in some fairly scenic country most of the time and we enjoy camping so that's how we're going to spend our time.

    If we find good connections we will try to post some reports in real time, but if this little thread remains quiet for a few days, it may just be that we are unable to connect or download our photos. Anyone who wishes to follow the weather in the area over the next few days, bearing in mind that we will be in the mountain time zone which is seven hours behind BST, the radars, satellite imagery, maps and hourly obs can all be found on the Environment Canada website which is at

    [email protected]

    Would suggest you click on the radar site at Strathmore which is just east of Calgary, Alberta. For Montana info you could try weatherimages.org and the NWS radar sites.

    Probably won't post again until late Tuesday or early Wednesday your time, while we are travelling to the storm zone.

    -----------------------------

    Alberta severe weather in midsummer is comparable to that experienced in Texas in May. There can be tornadoes of F-3 or even F-4 intensity in some cases, and in the past there have been damaging tornadoes that have resulted in numerous fatalities in both Edmonton and Pine Lake near Red Deer. Smaller tornadoes are quite frequent and several recent ones have occurred close to Lethbridge, which is about 100 miles east of the Rockies and south of Calgary. In general, the tornado zone runs from northwest of Edmonton to the U.S. border through Saskatchewan, but large hail is the most frequent severe weather type in the region around Calgary and Brooks; this part of Alberta is known as Hailstorm Alley.

    In this region, there are set-ups with dry line and cold front combinations, but the later one goes into the summer season, the less significant the dry line feature becomes, and the more likely it is that a cold front alone will trigger the severe weather, as would be the case in the UK or western Europe. Saskatchewan also records a large number of severe storms; in recent years the majority of these seem to have been very close to the U.S. border and result from cells that originate in northeast Montana.

    Severe weather forecasting is rather tricky in Alberta, the cells sometimes explode into high levels of activity very quickly from small triggering cells that drift out of the Rockies. One of the factors involved is that dew points near the foothills can be very low, but out into the high plains may be quite a bit higher, and when a marginal feature moves into these higher dew points it can suddenly acquire enough moisture and energy to break through to severe levels. This happened in July 2000 with the Pine Lake tornado, which went from being just a small cell to an F-3 tornado in about 45 minutes time.

    The situation we are chasing is not vastly different in set-up from that occasion, although the activity is probably going to be stronger south of Calgary rather than north. One good thing about chasing storms in Alberta, there are a lot of north-south and east-west highways and very good visibility is the rule, so with any luck we should be able to position ourselves to be able to head either south or east as the safety situation dictates and still be able to get some decent photos. Here's hoping ...

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    Posted
  • Location: South Shields Tyne & Wear half mile from the coast.
  • Location: South Shields Tyne & Wear half mile from the coast.

    Good luck Roger..

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    Posted
  • Location: Leigh On Sea - Essex & Tornado Alley
  • Location: Leigh On Sea - Essex & Tornado Alley

    Roger

    Have you thought about getting the Barons Threatnet for your vacation and future Chases which you can run of a Splitter through your Cigarette Lighter in the Car, they now include Canada with their 5 minute updated radar ??

    Paul S

    Good luck btw

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    Posted
  • Location: Swallownest, Sheffield 83m ASL
  • Location: Swallownest, Sheffield 83m ASL

    YAY!!!!!!!!

    Good luck Roger... Will probably still be up to follow the chase mate, so fingers crossed with the wifi.

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    Posted
  • Location: Liphook
  • Location: Liphook

    Cool info Roger, I have heard that some parts of Canada can have some pretty severe storms if the right set-up comes into play. Good luck with your chase Roger. Sounds cool!

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    Posted
  • Location: Rossland BC Canada
  • Location: Rossland BC Canada

    Paul, I'm going to look into that, our storm chase was a fairly late decision as we were thinking of going south this week but our time window got squeezed by weekend events and so the idea of going to Utah was amended to Alberta when I noticed this storm window on the charts. I didn't know the Baron system extended into Canada, and I doubt that I will now have time to do much about it, but in any case, we should have updated internet available pretty close to storm chase time, the target is now Calgary rather than Lethbridge for Tuesday night and early Wednesday as the latest models seem to have shifted the threat zone to near Calgary and north, which won't hurt our chances as there is a denser grid of roads in this zone than around Lethbridge.

    Based on past vacations, we should just go without any guidance at all and let the severe storms find us. :)

    Anyway, just leaving now for day one, probably driving to around Revelstoke in eastern BC today. The forecast in general shows a slightly unstable but basically dry air mass with seasonable temps across southern BC today, probably we'll see some orographic buildups and possibly get some storm photos en route. Tuesday the guidance is showing a weak trough developing over the central Rockies about 50-100 miles north of Banff towards Revelstoke, so our travel on Tuesday should put us in position to get more storm photos in the mountains, especially by late in the day. Then on Wednesday, this weak trough becomes more of an active southward drifting cold front that should be near Calgary by about 3 pm local time which would be about 21z. That's when we're hoping to get into something more active but if the situation changes we have the flexibility of going as far north as Edmonton, as far east as western Saskatchewan, or even south towards Montana although that looks unlikely the way things have changed in the past 24 hours.

    Well, I hope to have some interesting photos to share soon, wish us luck, I'm sure I have learned a lot from Paul's detailed accounts and with any luck our severe weather will be in the daytime hours. We can do without anything like Greensburg, just a nice twister in somebody's alfalfa field will do nicely. :)

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    Posted
  • Location: Shoeburyness, Essex - 6.2m asl
  • Location: Shoeburyness, Essex - 6.2m asl

    Good luck with the storm chase, Roger.

    I don't knowif you saw the gallery I posted from my trip to Alberta last month. We had been down to Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump and Waterton on the Montana border and were on our way back to Calgary for the Stampede when we came across an amazing storm cloud and front in the prairies. We stopped briefly so I could get some photos and it looked as though all hell was going to break loose, but it didn't actually manifest into anything in the end. :) So they may be able to develop very rapidly, but it seems unless all the conditions are right they can dissipate quickly as well.

    This was the gallery: http://www.netweather.tv/forum/index.php?showtopic=39507

    Looking forward to your posts and hope you manage to catch a supercell or two - but as you say, one out of harm's way rather than a destructive brute.

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    Posted
  • Location: Rossland BC Canada
  • Location: Rossland BC Canada

    Yes, I did see your pictures, think I mentioned them above and they were excellent.

    Well, so far so good, we drove to Revelstoke on Monday, weather was dry and mostly clear although some dark AC over some higher ground near Kamloops. It is also quite hot, felt like 32 C in Kamloops, camped in Revelstoke last night, and it is now almost 0900 mountain time although we haven't left the Pacific time zone quite yet.

    Had a look at the latest maps, the 12z run is slow coming in but the 00z run upgraded the severe potential for the Calgary area both later today (slight risk north) and more importantly tomorrow (moderate risk near Calgary). So we seem to be on target, plus there's another possibly stronger event following along for late Thursday; we need to be back in Vancouver Saturday so we will have to time this for where we can have a chance for an intercept on Thursday even if it explodes in Alberta on Friday.

    No pictures yet, although we managed to get one around sunset of a bear in a tree. I was looking off to one side of the road while driving about half an hour before Revelstoke, and I thought there was some really strange shape of branches in a tree, not a very tall one either, just a poplar about 30 feet high in a new growth area. Then I realized it was a black bear, no idea why he/she was up in the tree but while we stopped to get a picture the bear slowly climbed out of the tree or shall we say dropped to the ground.

    Well, time to depart for Calgary, looks like we will have a fabulous view of the mountains, first it's the Rogers Pass section through the Selkirks, then the East Kootenay valley and after lunch at Golden, we drive through the Rockies, Banff National Park and on to Calgary. Will be checking the net again around 2-3 pm to see if we can do any storm photography today, that part seems a bit iffy as the guidance is showing a dry trough gradually forming a few small cells probably 20-40 miles NW to N of Calgary, which is up towards Pine Lake and Airdrie, two places that are already fairly famous for severe weather so it may be worth a look.

    Probably going to camp around Drumheller Alberta tonight, it's an interesting area with badlands and dinosaur bones that we have not really visited on past trips to southern Alberta so between storm chases there will be something else interesting to do.

    It may be another 24 hours before we report in now, unless eomething dramatic happens later today. Wednesday is looking quite active.

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    Posted
  • Location: Shoeburyness, Essex - 6.2m asl
  • Location: Shoeburyness, Essex - 6.2m asl

    Good luck with the hunt, Roger. I hope things happen in time for you before you have to return to Vancouver.

    Drumheller is next on my list of places to visit when I go back. The badlands and dinosaur museum sound fascinating.

    Will be following your progress and posts with interest. Hopefully you will get some good pictures, too.

    Cheers

    Peter

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    Posted
  • Location: Rossland BC Canada
  • Location: Rossland BC Canada

    Day 2 report -- Tuesday 7 Aug

    Good news on the storm chase front, we have already intercepted a storm which was borderline severe on Tuesday evening.

    Started the day under mainly clear skies and warm temps in Revelstoke, watching steady build-up of wave clouds over the Selkirks and later Rockies. By about 1100 Mountain time (all MDT reports, add 6 for GMT), these wave clouds had coalesced into a 70% overcast at about 12,000 feet, with minor buildups visible.

    Internet stop in Canmore revealed radar echoes well to our north but just stable cloud between our location and our target zone of Drumheller, which is 100 km northeast of Calgary. Proceeded through Calgary and arrived in Drumheller at 6 pm, set up camp (which for us means selected a site because we're not sleeping in a tent but in our van). Went for a tour of the badlands and the nearby Royal Tyrrell Dinosaur Museum which is about 10 km northwest of Drumheller. At this time, altocumulus overcast looking rather dark off to our northwest, sultry feel to the air, 28 C and light south wind.

    About 7 pm started to see development in these cloud formations, a couple of lightning bolts, and even some ragged funnel clouds reaching down about 10% of the way to ground. Rain or possibly hail shaft became visible from centre of assumed CB and lightning on the order of once a minute.

    Driving a few more kms to northwest through Red Deer River valley (badland terrain, large groves of cottonwoods) this storm became much more active, bursts of heavy rain, then we became aware of a very strong WNW wind blowing slightly across the highway, raising clouds of dust from dirt side road and then whipping flags at a campground (not ours) as lightning increased to 5 times a minute. Oddly no thunder could be heard, possibly a wind swirl phenomenon because it appeared that the lightning was 2-4 kms away.

    Got pictures in sequence, unfortunately Drumheller has only fixed internet link so no way to download from our laptop although we've seen the upload from the camera and you'll enjoy these when we can get them on line later.

    Retreated from the storm front for safety and watched as the cell moved due east and just to the north of our location, then felt even stronger outflow winds from NNW, estimated 60 knot gusts ... then went back into town as darkness was approaching even outside the storm zone, had supper while weak cell tagging along with previous storm watered the town with 5-10 mms of rain, came out at 9 pm to witness super double rainbow to our southeast. Posting this now in case I run out of time, will add more.

    Okay apparently I have five minutes, plus we need to get moving.

    Just watched the satellite loop of our storm, it evolved out of the cell I had seen on radar in Canmore, and I think by sheer luck we happened to be under its most severe phase at about 0130z. This activity has now drifted well to our southeast and died out.

    Current indications continue as speculated earlier, wave formation near Calgary today, severe potential looks good on a larger scale in the general area of Brooks to Vulcan to High River, which is basically an arc to the southeast of Calgary. So we are heading in that direction now and will do another radar check around noon (it is 8 a.m. here) unless visual evidence has us storm chasing at that time. Expecting a peak from 3 to 6 pm today.

    More later, hopefully with pictures to follow shortly.

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    Posted
  • Location: Leigh On Sea - Essex & Tornado Alley
  • Location: Leigh On Sea - Essex & Tornado Alley

    Good luck Roger, cant wait to see the pics................oh the suspense!

    Paul S

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    Posted
  • Location: Shoeburyness, Essex - 6.2m asl
  • Location: Shoeburyness, Essex - 6.2m asl

    Sounds good for later on, Roger. Like Paul, I'm itching to see the photos.

    5 lightning strikes a minute :doh:

    Did you manage to get any of them on camera?

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    Posted
  • Location: Liphook
  • Location: Liphook

    Sounds like a fairly active cell there, curious to hear aobut that wind swirl I have to say, I've seen some videos of that sort of thing before, if you don't know what it is I suppose it could be mistaken for a tornado on the ground though obviously winds aren't even close to being as severe as that. Can't wait to see the photos.

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    Posted
  • Location: Canmore, AB [4296ft above sea level] & North Kent [350ft above sea level]
  • Location: Canmore, AB [4296ft above sea level] & North Kent [350ft above sea level]

    I saw a storm brewing around late afternoon to the east of Canmore, around calgary north direction I would have thought.

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    Posted
  • Location: Rossland BC Canada
  • Location: Rossland BC Canada

    Just briefly, currently at Vulcan 50 kms southeast of Calgary, tracking developing cells in this area and slightly to the SW of here next 2-3 hours. Have already seen some dramatic cloud formations although mostly above the surface in terms of development. Situation is developing fairly slowly and should peak around 2-3 hours from now. Front is just to south of present location but wind at surface is backing from NNE to ENE which is good sign for uplift as cells drift across Rockies.

    As to yesterday, I was thinking there might have been a vortex between us and the CB which was distorting sound propagation because otherwise we should have easily been hearing the thunder as we did later in Drumheller when the less active cell moved through.

    Thanks for input, heading back on to the chase now. Pictures -- could be tomorrow before we manage to make a connection between laptop and internet.

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    Posted
  • Location: Rossland BC Canada
  • Location: Rossland BC Canada

    Day 3 -- Champion hail storm

    Left Drumheller at 0900 MDT and drove through badlands along Red Deer River to Dinosaur Provincial Park about 120 kms southeast. Very interesting fossils and bones on display, in fact the museum in Drumheller got most of their exhibits from this area. Weather still partly cloudy at lunch time, 23 C and east wind at 10 knots. Headed for nearby town of Brooks to hit the internet for guidance.

    Stayed with original plan and drove west towards Vulcan, roughly along a frontal boundary which seemed to be getting more active after 2 pm. As we approached Vulcan, strange cloud formations mainly about 3-5 thousand feet above the rolling terrain. Stopped at Vulcan to find internet access and quickly determined that a hailstorm was developing 25 miles southwest heading to a point perhaps 10 miles south of us. As we drove south, rapid development ahead of us and distinct hail shafts appearing (all on photos).

    Near the small town of Champion rain was falling at a torrential rate and mixing with small hail about 1 cm in diameter. We realized we were core punching but the hail seemed manageable, so we followed slowly and turned east into the town from the highway, stopping briefly to allow the storm to get past us for better visuals. We were then able to take a sequence of pictures as the hail and rain storm retreated east and we drove further south then west, hoping for another storm encounter later on. As you'll see we have a good sequence of pictures before, during and after this locally severe storm.

    By 5 pm we were in Claresholm south of Calgary and skies were somewhat clearing, with moderate cells to our north. These did not appear to be severe so we called it a day although as of 0900 pm MDT there is a fairly strong cell just to our north, however, it is now dark so just watching for lightning.

    Will post the pictures in a few minutes, we have a motel with the right kind of internet access for the laptop, however, it is in need of a cool-down so will return in a while to download the pictures from days 2 and 3.

    Tomorrow looks like more active storm chasing in southern Alberta or eastern BC depending on how the radar looks at 0900 or 15z. Front has recently rippled back north again with a final wave in the series forming near Revelstoke, so all depends on how this tracks, guidance suggests southeast towards Lethbridge so we may be fairly close to mid-day storm development right here.

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    Posted
  • Location: North Kenton (Tyne-and-Wear)6miles east from newcastle airport
  • Location: North Kenton (Tyne-and-Wear)6miles east from newcastle airport

    Good luck Roger

    Nigel

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    Posted
  • Location: Rossland BC Canada
  • Location: Rossland BC Canada

    PICTURES FROM DAY 2

    These first pictures show our early morning weather as we left Revelstoke BC, a few wave clouds forming over the Selkirk Mountains.

    post-4238-1186632249_thumb.jpg

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    Posted
  • Location: Rossland BC Canada
  • Location: Rossland BC Canada

    plus this final shot, then on to the storm activity.

    Later on, these clouds expanded rapidly to form an overcast AC layer, which eventually began to develop into high-based thunderstorms northwest of Drumheller. Notice the rain and possibly hail shaft at this early stage. Small funnels could also be seen on the western flank of this storm. At this point we are 5 kms northwest of Drumheller looking NW. Temp about 24 C and light winds, no rain at our location.

    post-4238-1186636621_thumb.jpg

    post-4238-1186637007_thumb.jpg

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    Posted
  • Location: Rossland BC Canada
  • Location: Rossland BC Canada

    Then we got closer to the developing storm 10 kms northwest of Drumheller at about 1930 MDT 7th or 0130z 8th.

    Lightning was now much more frequent and we became aware of a strong crosswind from due west, first picture here shows how flags at a campground are fully extended. Small road signs were rattling around and dust was blowing across the paved highway from gravel side roads and bare spots on the nearby bluffs. Visualize also a lot of large cottonwood trees swaying around in 40-50 knot gusts at this point, bursts of heavy rain and the usual pungent smell of a fresh rain, this time after quite a lengthy dry spell in this area.

    This strong wind convinced us to retreat back to the 7 km mark, more or less across the highway from the Dinosaur Museum, but well down into the river valley so we weren't the easiest target for lightning. At this point the storm intensified and swept the valley with 60 knot gustsi from the NW, bending the trees considerably and whipping up little clouds of dust that gave us some warning when the stronger gusts were coming through. The apparent flaw in this picture is either a raindrop on the lens or a hailstone dropping past. Lightning was quite frequent but none of our several pictures caught it, we'll try the movie function next time we have lightning that frequent.

    post-4238-1186637590_thumb.jpg

    post-4238-1186638029_thumb.jpg

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    Posted
  • Location: Rossland BC Canada
  • Location: Rossland BC Canada

    DAY 3 PICTURES

    (from Wed 8th Aug)

    _______________________________

    Well, the one photo we regretted not being able to take was the double rainbow at sunset on Tuesday, but it was just covering so much of the sky with very little ambient light ... hope we see another one in better background light.

    On Wednesday morning we spent most of our time driving through badlands to the southeast of Drumheller, to Dinosaur Provincial Park. Took a half dozen shots, all quite interesting, but as this is fairly time consuming on the lap-top, just one for now ... taken in the provincial park. The badlands are odd-shaped mounds aout 50-200 feet high with layers of red, grey and brown rock or soil, some of which is very porous, other parts are very hard so they erode at different rates once exposed, and form even stranger formations known as hoodoos.

    By 2:30 pm these rather odd cloud formations were developing overhead, as we drove west towards Vulcan, Alberta.

    There were signs of rotation and funnel development with larger cells developing further to our west.

    Not sure how the thread will actually combine my pictures at times, perhaps you've noticed this already. :D

    What follows will be several pictures showing the various stages of a heavy rain and hail storm that we intercepted about 3:15 to 3:30 pm MDT south of Vulcan near the small town of Champion. The first picture orm (which is the third one shown in this post) shows a dramatic view of hail shafts appearing ahead of us on Highway 23 just before we entered the rain shield of the storm. The cell was moving from WSW to ENE at about 30 knots, view is looking south into the core.

    After driving right into this heavy to severe storm and spending about 5-10 minutes in heavy rain and hail to 1 cm, the cell began to drift further east and we took the following pictures of it, first from about 1-2 kms away, then from about 20 kms as the upper portions became visible...

    ...

    ...

    ...

    post-4238-1186639217_thumb.jpg

    post-4238-1186639679_thumb.jpg

    post-4238-1186640112_thumb.jpg

    post-4238-1186640558_thumb.jpg

    post-4238-1186640656_thumb.jpg

    post-4238-1186640730_thumb.jpg

    post-4238-1186640820_thumb.jpg

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    Posted
  • Location: Swallownest, Sheffield 83m ASL
  • Location: Swallownest, Sheffield 83m ASL

    Super Photos and account there Roger. Enjoyed the read.. :wallbash:

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    Posted
  • Location: Rossland BC Canada
  • Location: Rossland BC Canada

    Day 4 plans -- Front has sagged just south of our current location in Claresholm which is about 100 kms south of Calgary. We plan to drive south to the area between Pincher Creek and Waterton Park and assess storm potential on the Alberta side of the Rockies, which may be significant despite a lack of any official guidance other than model output showing slight lift after noon MDT. There is probably a better chance of storm activity in Cranbrook and Nelson regions of southeast BC but we can catch some of that later as we leave the area.

    Just read through my posts above, sorry about the slightly jumbled appearance of photos, I have not totally figured out how this site integrates multiple posts, sometimes it merges them and sometimes it doesn't. Also this laptop is a little jumpy so if you come across the odd nonsense word fragment, that was some other word on the page that skipped back into the text and I didn't catch it. As you know you can only edit for about 30 mins so I will have to rely on a higher power.

    Same goes for today's storm chase, I am less certain of what or where than the past two days, so it may end up being all scenery and no storms, but we're in the right place for that, Waterton Park is quite scenic and so is the Crowsnest Pass which will be our route back into BC later on (unless the storms keep us chasing all afternoon in Alberta.

    One other note, we have some pictures that need editing before posting, so there are a few cloud details that are missing from the file so far, the contrast was an issue because of the weak lighting available, however, what one could see with the "naked eye" was quite dramatic in all cases -- I would not classify yesterday as major severe weather but the sky and weather were quite absorbing for both of us from about 2 pm right through to 5:30 when we stopped in here, and the storm we drove through was about at the limit of what one would willingly drive in, at the point where we entered the small town of Champion I was looking for a three storey building with shelter on the east side because the hail was fairly large at that point and starting to blow diagonally in a 40 mph wind near the tail end of the cell, however by the time I found such shelter the storm was just far enough east that we were back into the moderate rain and smaller hail again. Those pictures I took right after the storm, it was still raining and hailing slightly but 3 kms south of the town it had obviously not rained at all, in fact from time lapse radar I don't think it has rained yet anywhere south of an east-west line about 20 kms to our north, but it has been raining for much of the past 24 hours in Calgary.

    Well, off to hit the road again, possibly the next report will be from home late Friday our time so Saturday morning there.

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    Posted
  • Location: Canmore, AB [4296ft above sea level] & North Kent [350ft above sea level]
  • Location: Canmore, AB [4296ft above sea level] & North Kent [350ft above sea level]

    Good luck Roger, have fun in my future home town of Nelson (hopefully by January)

    Yesterday we had 3 small storms come through town from 5pm through to 10pm. One storm at about 9pm had about 3 lightning strikes per minute for a couple of minutes but they all seemed to fade away as they moved over us

    Keep up the updates, safe travelling

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