Late Night Lightning

Been awhile since I have experienced late night lightning, but I was awake and in luck tonight, Aug 28th, 2016.  We had taken a trip to the Arkansas River valley in southern Colorado to buy Pueblo peppers and visit the state fair where my kids had participated at the State level in 4-H earlier in the week.  After a fun but long day we came home and I started peeling the skins off of our many bushels of peppers; this usually goes well into the night!  Just as I was finishing bushel #1, there were flashes in the sky; at first I thought it was a car going by but to my delight a storm was passing by to our south.

The insects were having a symphony in the front yard and the only man-made noise was a train passing by a 1/2 mile or so away (lots of squeaks and metal on metal scrapes) so I recorded some of the ambience while enjoying it.  Meanwhile the lightning was becoming more frequent, so i jumped in the car and headed for vistas out of the trees.  I ended up driving about 5 miles south of Larkspur and sat on top of a hill overlooking the Spruce Meadows Open Space at Greenland and watched the show.

I enjoy taking pictures of lightning with power lines, and these were carrying a lot of electricity so I figured it would be perfect foreground for lightning shots.  Given it was raining and the lightning was fairly close, I decided to shoot from within the truck.  I have been getting better at holding the camera fairly steady with the iris open, these were 6 second shots at ISO 800, f/11, focus at infinity.  I was using a wide angle lens.

To remove the rain from the windshield I need to have the wipers on; sometimes there are drops in the shot but that goes with the territory; not much I can do about that given it is raining.  Luckily the lightning is so quick and otherwise it is dark (no light) so most of the shots you don’t see the wipers.  Then it is just a waiting game, reviewing the pictures to ensure the field of view is what is expected.  Unfortunately the lightning was infrequent, about 90 seconds apart, so I got a lot of black pictures I had to delete later.

As always, click on the photo for a larger size.

Lightning

Interesting placement of the bolt and the tower, I wish I could say it was planned, but nothing about that shot was planned; all luck…and being in the right place at the right time!

Lots o lightning

Lots going on in this shot, it was very bright!

Anvil Crawler Lightning

One of the last anvil crawler style bolts of the evening, just before midnight; the last one was massive (there was about 5 minutes between it and the previous) and it was so bright and long that I moved the camera (I have to admit I was getting tired and it startled me) and the picture was blurred/jittery.

Upward Streamer Lightning

Close-up of the previous shot (lower right) showing three upward streamers, the right most one got the return strike but was a bit off from the original streamer (or there were 4).

Colorado Lightning

If only we could harness that…looks like it almost tapped us!

b&w lightning photo

Cool black and white shot, south Douglas County Colorado, Aug 28th about 11:30pm.

July storms

Been out chasing and spotting storms a couple of times in June.  I also got a call from the NWS about a storm passing through Larkspur, but of course we were away from home in Englewood and I could only spot from afar…

This first storm system was June 13th.  I was all over this day, playing the southern part of the Palmer Divide and then heading to Northeast Colorado calling it off around Yuma.

Yoder wind farm and wall cloud

This storm had a huge wall cloud that was dragging the ground, but I couldn’t see any rotation. There was plenty of rotation with these windmills, though, near Yoder.

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The storm changed quite a bit near Calhan, a nice little scud cloud swirled up and then disappeared into the storm.

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The two cells collided and became tornado warned near Fort Morgan.

Brush Inflow

As the two cell collided in Morgan County, this was the initial inflow component to the storm. It had been tornado warned for about 30 minutes at this time.

Brush Colorado Tornado Warned Storm

The storm I followed off the Palmer Divide collided with another storm in Morgan County. Thus there were two inflow sections to this storm for a while, this was the second, over Brush while the storm was tornado warned.

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Severe warned storm near Akron.

Akron Inflow

Right under the inflow scud, I love this part of the storm as the clouds are low and quickly moving as they form and then get sucked up into the storm

Cloud painting near Yuma.

Great cloud textures with this storm near Yuma.

Upward Streamer Lightning

Caught some lightning near Last Chance; this one was cool as there was a tower and some upward streamers and cloud to cloud lightning. I can’t believe they didn’t connect; they did the next time!

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On June 19th a set of storms formed on the Palmer Divide.  There were two storms where I lived.  The first was a bit north and was great viewing from the back porch.  Most bolts were in the cloud, every now and then a spike would be seen and I was able to capture several of them.  The last storm that formed west of me was putting down very little lightning and didn’t show much on radar.  The lightning was good cloud-to-cloud anvil crawlers though.  I timed them, they were between 4.5 and 5 minutes apart, on average.  I was able to capture one, and it was the last one of the storm which dissipated overhead!

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A spike coming directly towards the camera.

Larkspur lightining

One of the few remaining bolts from this short-lived cell.

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Larkspur anvil crawler.

The last lightning from this storm as it sparked overhead!

As this storm died, I jumped in the car and headed back out to check out the previous storm from one of my favorite lookouts in eastern Douglas County, about 15 minutes away. The storm became severe warned for half-dollar sized hail, but in spotting it I only saw nickel sized hail.  Watched the storm until after midnight as it entered Elbert County and then headed home.

Fireflies and lightning

East Douglas County, you can’t see them, but the field was filled with fireflies!

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Eastern Larkspur Barn

A cool barn I pass just east of Larkspur. It is pretty this time of year!

Another storm came to me on June 28th.  This one had some neat lowerings that were right overhead.

Larkspur storm

Looking straight up in the front yard.

Larkspur Storm

Same formation but from the back porch.

larkspur storm clouds

Loved the colors and motion of this storm!

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This storm put down some lightning and light rain at Devils Head, but didn’t end up doing much other than looking spectacular as it flowed across the Palmer Divide.  Taken from Jackson Creek road, overlooking Castle Rock.

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Late May Storm

There have been several great stormy days here in Colorado in early May; but my schedule has prevented me from chasing on those good days.  I’ve been itching to get out; and luckily we had a good day before we left for our family vacation!

Got several lucky shots of lightning

My son and I got an opportunity to head out on May 26th.  We targeted Limon and decided we’d then go where the storms popped up as the forecast was difficult.  The storms fired along the Colorado front range early in the day; and put down some hail, but those storms were moving due north and had already formed a line; so we punched through and continued to our target.  Once in Limon, we saw some development to the south and headed that way to check them out.

The weather was strange, it was pretty chilly (about 52 degrees) and nothing was going up discreet.  We stopped at the first storm and noted a wall cloud feature on a storm, so we watched it.  It did have a little rotation; but just as it was looking good the inflow got cut off and the storm turned into a massive rainy mess.  So we left it and headed Southeast towards the front end of the cells.

Early wall cloud, temp was about 50 degrees.

Early wall cloud, temp was about 51 degrees.

A small amount of rotation.

A small amount of rotation as this wall cloud continued

We were able to see a small, short lived funnel near Wild Horse and as we were heading south towards some great looking structure near Kit Carson the storm overtook us.  There was a tornado spotted from this cell but traffic was pretty hairy and we ended up abandoning that storm and heading north.  We saw some great lightning, Hunter actually saw a positive bolt from the top of a tower which is great; I’ve never seen one of those.  By the time we got north of I-70, the front edge of the storms were all out by the Kansas border, and we decided to not pursue those into Kansas and instead just watch the remaining daytime lightning south of Yuma and then head home.

A funnel was forming; I rushed back to the car to ensure Hunter could see it; but by then it had dissipated. It went about 1/2 way to the ground, but was just a small finger.

Here a funnel was forming, but I didn’t get a shot of it as it was 1/2 way to the ground as I was rushing back to the car to ensure Hunter saw it!  It lasted for just a minute or two; but the coulds were all active in this area.

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Interesting structure as the storm overtook us

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Aroya historic school house!

The Aroya historic school house was in use until the early 1960s.

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The greens are beautiful this time of year!

South of Yuma we caught up to the last lightning of the evening.  We parked next to a grain bin and under these power lines; ended up getting some great day lightning photos; I was holding the camera by hand and was surprised this technique actually worked as it wasn’t dark yet!

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April 26 2016 Thunderstorm

Limon wind farm

Thunderstorm over the Limon Colorado wind farm.

With a strong low pressure system active over the region, there were forecast isolated thunderstorms in NE Colorado; with a Moderate Risk posted through Central Kansas and Oklahoma.  If there were any storms coming off of the Palmer Divide I decide I would chase them; but the system didn’t appear active enough in Colorado to chase too far from home.

Leaving work in East Aurora I noted there was a storm forming on the Palmer Divide, around Kiowa.  Looking at the velocity couplet of the Doppler radar I decided this storm was worth checking out.  I decided to take the long way home from work and head east.

A call home provided me with the information that along the Rampart Range it was snowing, and the temperature leaving work was 47 degrees; not optimal for thunderstorms; but the storm forming outside of Kiowa had rotation and many lightning strikes.  Odd things happen in the spring in Colorado!

I decided to get in front of the storm in the hopes of getting a time-lapse of it coming at me; there were low level clouds to the west of the storm so that seemed like the only view available.  So I went to Last Chance and then south into the Limon wind farm.  I was able to get in good position and directly in front of the storm.  It was 50 degrees and mostly cloudy in front of the storm, but the storm was still producing a good amount of lightning as it approached; and obviously hail as seen with the white curtains.  As the storm went overhead, it started to hail about marble size and covered the ground with about an inch deep.  As the storm passed over, with the change of temperature, the hail and rain turned to snow.  This was the first time I have been able to see lightning while it was snowing; I’ve heard snow thunder before, but not seen lightning.  The air temperature after the storm was 36 degrees.

On the drive home there was some great cloud structure and some fog from the weather that produced all the snow along the mountains; which provided some surreal views.  As I got home there was 3 inches of snow that had fallen.  Again, crazy early spring storms on the high plains!

Snow virga

Virga clouds SE of Kiowa, likely snow

Castle Rock sunset

West side of Castle Rock at sunset, almost looks like sunset at the beach!

Pikes Peak

Raspberry Butte in the foregrounds Pikes Peak peeking out of the clouds

April 25 2016 First Thunderstorm of the Spring

We’ve been having an active spring with some large multi-day snow storms.  There were forecasted storms for the afternoon into the evening and the early evening was dry, yet cold.  It didn’t seem like thunderstorm weather.  But about 7:30pm, a storm formed near the Air Force Academy moving northeast.

As the storm entered castle rock it started to produce lightning and hail.  A true thunderstorm!  I tried to hang out on the periphery of the storm to get out of the rain and have more to see; but the shape and direction of the storm didn’t have a dry option.

Castle Rock hail

Nickel sized hail on the SW side of town

In the hopes to get out of the rain/hail I jetted north with the target of the Castle Pines area, I have a couple of nice vantage points in that area that were hopefully west of the storm and providing some cool views of the lightning.  As I was driving through Castle Rock the hail got quite big, I’d estimate quarter size, but it was rather soft and mushy.  The National Weather Service issues a Severe Thunderstorm warning for the area due to this; I wanted to size the hail and provide a report; but I was not in a good position to stop.

After the storm passed over I was able to get some lightning shots; but due to it still raining I couldn’t use a tripod, but the lighting was too close for me to get out of the car.  I watched the storm as it moved over Aurora and then another cell formed to the south and east, heading east of Parker.  Lots of great in-cloud lightning illuminated the storm and sheets of rain.  Although not a supercell or a huge storm, it was fun to watch the first thunderstorm of the year here on the western Palmer Divide!

Castle Pines Lightning

Cool lightning both over Castle Pines

Tangled Lightning

Cloud to cloud lightning protruding out of the back end of the storm, likely looking directly into a bolt appearing as tangled electricity.

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Parker Lightning

Lightning over south Parker

Parker Lightning

Lightning over Parker

Autumn Larkspur Lightning

As a large trough comes digging into Colorado bringing much cooler fall weather, we were treated with some autumn thunderstorms and lightning.  I was able to capture some of these bolts during the heavy rain inside my car.  All were taken with the camera hand-held, so focus on a couple is a bit blurry; but overall pretty good given the proximity, the amount of rain, and the varied distances.

These first few were directly overhead so I was only able to capture parts; not the whole bolt.

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tn_LarkspurLightning_Oct20-4490As the storm slowly moved north, I was able to readjust the vehicle and focus; a couple were a little closer than I was expecting so the focus was a bit out, but overall not too bad especially for hand-holding the camera.  Focus is difficult with lightning every time!tn_LarkspurLightning_Oct20-4492 tn_LarkspurLightning_Oct20-4513 tn_LarkspurLightning_Oct20-4527 tn_LarkspurLightning_Oct20-4535

Early October Lightning

It was great to see some early October lightning, although it has been bone dry for the last two months.  A small cell was putting down some lightning southwest of here (west of the Air Force Academy) but I was home with the kids while Erin was out.  That storm died by the time it cleared the Rampart Range, but another storm formed directly east of us that started to look good, so I grabbed the camera and drove out to a place I could watch the show.

There was only a bolt every 3-5 minutes, probably a total of 10 bolts total which I missed about half of getting to my vantage point, but they were all on my side of the storm and had very intense stepped leaders.  All were cloud to ground making some nice photo opportunities. As soon as the storm formed, it dissipated, so you had to be in the right place at the right time for this one!

All pictures taken from Bear Dance Road and Tomah Road between Larkspur and Castle Rock looking North.  Click for larger images.

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Rural Colorado Lightning

I love the monsoon season, because 30% chance of thunderstorms means there will be one within 30 minutes of where I live; it is the way living atop the Palmer Divide usually works!  I drove about 10 minutes south of home and was able to capture these tonight.  Not as close as yesterday’s lightning by any means, but still pretty cool.  Again, cell phone and daytime pictures so quality is appropriate, daytime lightning is much harder to photograph, especially getting the stepped leaders!  What will tomorrow bring?Rampart Range Lightning Rampart Range Lightning Rampart Range Lightning Rampart Range Lightning

 

Castle Pines Lightning

The monsoon is in effect here in Colorado, like it always is in late-July and/or early-August (which I love) as I can capture some great lightning photos. Nice thundershowers each afternoon cool it down and make just fantastic evening/night conditions (and also keep the landscape green, which is a challenge here this time of year)! I was driving home from work which is normally 45 minutes but yesterday ended up being over 2 hours. As I was in the stop-go routine, an oncoming storm with very frequent cloud-to-ground lightning was encroaching. Luckily, the traffic ended up thinning out just in time to miss the core of the precipitation which would have made the drive even longer, ugh!

I travelled to the next exit and got off to take some pretty close, daytime lightning photos. This is with my cell phone, but surprising got some really nice shots! All of these bolts were between a mile and two away.

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Castle Pines Lightning

This one is interesting I feel because it shows the end of the initial discharge and the start of the second return stroke.