I certainly didn’t think yesterday would turn out the way it did. This was definitely Alberta foothills magic! This blog post goes to show that the foothills can produce amazing storms when the models show better potential elsewhere. I thought the Three Hills/Drumheller area and points east and southeast looked like a good place to be as the NAM and GFS looked to be in close agreement lining up decent CAPE and bulk shear values, along with the strong upper level jet and shortwave trough coming through which would get storms going. The 0z 4km WRF and morning runs of the HRRR both had storms along or just east of the QE2 between YQF and YYC in the afternoon. Was I wrong in choosing that initial target, to some extent! I picked up a friend from work who is originally from the Ukraine who has never seen a ‘real’ storm before, just before noon, and by 12:30pm we were gassed up and heading south of YQF on the QE2. Storms were already developing along the foothills from northwest of YYC to Rocky Mountain House. I chose to keep heading south towards the southern most storm that was developing which I assume was near the Water Valley area, as it looked like it would be isolated from the convection to the north. We turned off the QE2 at the Amerada road (TWP 322) and headed west. We couldn’t see much of this storm as cumulus clouds and anvil debris from the convection to our west-northwest blocked its view, but as we carried on west, its base finally came into view way off to our southwest and there was no doubt it was supercellular. From the Amerada road, we turned south on HWY 766 as the storm started to become closer. We got cought in some heavy rain and some small hail but eventually escaped the edge of its core the further south we went on HWY 766. From HWY 766 we turned west on HWY 580 as I wanted to get close to this amazing rotating updraft that was just to our immediate southwest. We dropped off HWY 580 and went south on range road 35 which eventually became range road 35a, and at the intersection of range road 35a and TWP 292, we were treated to some fantastic storm structure to our immediate west! We stayed at this location for only 10 minutes, and during that time we observed massive storm scale rotation, and watched the RFD cut into the storm and create tornadogenesis. Absolutely amazing to watch. A funnel soon appeared, and it eventually fully condensed and became a tornado as a dust swirl was observed. After the tornado lifted, we traveled east on TWP 292 to stay somewhat ahead of the storm, and stopped on various range roads to take photos and marvel at the storms structure. Convection developed to its south and these 2 storms would eventually merge, and as that was taking place, we traveled east of Crossfield to get into position to see what would come of the merger. The storm looked good at first from our location at TWP 285 and range road 284, complete with dual inflow bands, but it was apparent that it was now moving southeast away from us. We did try to stay with it by cruising down HWY 791, but I made the decision to let the storm go east of Airdrie as a long linear precipitation core was observed and I didn’t feel like playing catch up. This storm eventually died, but a new supercell formed from its outflow boundary near Gem. A quick stop at the Crossfield Esso, and we were back in YQF just after 5:00pm. I wonder if the models mayyybe underestimated the CAPE and shear values along the foothills northwest of YYC yesterday? Looking back, yesterdays 12z NAM run, for example, had some marginal instability and 30kts of Sur-500mb bulk shear at noon, around when the storms started to develop along the foothills. Whether the models were right or wrong in that area, the foothills decided to create some magic of its own.
Wide angle image showing the awesome storm structure from this supercell looking west from TWP road 282 and range road 35a at 1:55pm. Rotation was obvious and my Ukrainian friend who has never seen a supercell could see it too!
Tornado touchdown at 2:03 pm! This touchdown is roughly just west of range road 40, just south of TWP 292. Damage eventually becomes reported at a farm a bit west of this location which leads me to believe either the funnel at 2:01 has contact with the ground, or this photo above is the tornado doing the damage. I couldn’t confirm any debris within the dust swirl here. Part of me feels bad for not checking down there after. This tornado was very brief and lifted within minutes, and no other funnels were observed after.
Another doppler image from Weather Underground of the storm exactly at the time of the above pano. A classic flying eagle! I do have to say one thing. As much as I enjoy seeing these storms, I obviously don’t like seeing them do damage, or cause injury. I am very disappointed to see the damage caused at a farm between range road 40 and HWY 22, very near to where these images were taken. I haven’t heard of any injuries, so thats a good thing.