Inland storm chase near Glentunnel

Location: Canterbury, New Zealand

  • Thunderstorm
  • ,
  • Heavy Rain

Unfortunately for this report I seem to of lost all the larger images files, I just couldn’t find them for the life of me on my hard drive…. perhaps I deleted them accidentally? A true crime when thunderstorms are involved but perhaps I did, so just the thumbnails are here to view. Of course we took video footage and I still have that so feel free to watch the clip below and enjoy!. 

This day started out nice and sunny, a good sign. Colder air aloft was encroaching eastwards over the center of the South Island, a look at the Invercargill and Paraparaumu (Wellington) soundings weren’t conclusive of too much happening but the colder air was between these areas.

I meet Steve in Town and we saw good Cu congestus to the west over or near Darfield which looked the obvious place to head for. Temps were nearish 19/20 C and dewpoints around 13 C which is pretty good with the relatively cold air aloft, it wasn’t that apetising but it would be enough. Shear wasn’t even worth thinking about as there was practically none there and directional wise wasn’t interesting either so we could count tornadoes out! lol. As we got closer to Darfield we realised the clouds were a little further west than first thought, we traveled on through to and just beyond Sheffield. We were now under these monster cauliflower clouds going up with some interesting bases around, the most interesting just southwest of us. We gave Steven Graham a txt to see if any lightning was going off and where if so. He was at home in Templeton at that point just about to leave to come out and join us. He said “Yes, to the west”, it wasn’t alot to go by but it didn’t matter as we knew it was this cloud we were staring at. Steven G left his house to go west as we went back through Sheffield to go along the foothills southwest of us. We then went inland more onto some shingle roads around the Whitecliffs area. We saw some nice bases and started to hear frequent scferics on the AM radio. It took until we passed Whitecliffs itself until we started to see some action. Steve saw some fork lightning to his right which I didn’t see although I did notice a general flash. Not very frequent lightning but enough to create some excitement!

Rain started to fall which then got heavy but no hail. There was not much visually to look at now as there was just alot of murk above us with lightning bolts striking out at times, a few of which were good! Streams were starting to form and the road was starting to get flooded by the rain with big puddles everywhere nearly covering the road at points so driving was slow.

We pulled over where we could to observe what was going on. The foothills despite being a good place to be for storms seemed a bit closed in, in that there wasn’t a big field of view. The rain plus window wipers constantly going back and forth didn’t make for exciting video as the lightning was not overly frequent at this point in time and unfortunately didn’t pick up much more for the rest of this chase although it did keep going for another hour or so.

We actually got to get out of the rain at one point and sit on the side of the road videoing without the constant noise of the window wipers, nothing much was going though. A rain core could be seen in the distance, horaay….lol. Just not the best visual type of storm but it was still great to be out there.

We got out of the shingle roads around Whitecliffs and got onto the inland scenic route where we pulled over at some monument thing where we kept vigil. Rain wasn’t that bad here and Steve videoed while I took a few snaps. Once again lightning wasn’t that frequent but we did see two or three nice bolts here, of course they had to happen just when Steve stopped recording! We also went through some nice rain cores that weren’t to heavy but looked cool before we went into them as can be seen in the pic above. I txt Steven Graham to see where he was up to, he was near Windwhistle and we were just south of Glentunnel so I suggested we meet in Glentunnel. There was quite heavy rain falling when we were there with big puddles building on the side of the road and the occasional lightning bolt still going off but thunder wasn’t all that loud. A new feature to this chase which was really handy was Steven Graham had live lightning information on the move which is awesome! Using his cellphone he can hook up to the internet with his laptop and get lightning information from his detector which is hooked up to his computer and the internet at his house. We can also look at other data but costs tend to be high doing things this way and lightning information is the most useful anyway so it works out great. We saw lightning was now leaving the area we were in at Glentunnel and heading east but not yet reaching Darfield. We got into our cars and were off.

This was probably one of the most interesting spectacles of the day. The rain as we got out of Glentunnel began to get really heavy and torrential, the heaviest rain I have experienced! Visibility was getting low and we were driving quite slowly, Steven Graham infront of us in his car was getting harder to see. Cars on the other side of the road going the other way were beginning to pull over because conditions were terrible! Very small hail also began to fall now but didn’t last long. The rain was awesome!

Finally we drove out of the heavy rain as we entered Darfield and continued through and stopped just out of the town to discuss what we just went though. You can see in the above photo the wall of rain coming down behind Steve (left) and Steven Graham (right). Some of the cloud bases looked good near us but the Cb was now dead marked by that awesome downdraft. We drove around a little still hearing big scferics on the radio but after another quick check on the tracker realised it was further to the north around Culverdon. After seeing this we decided to go home as by the time we would’ve got to the Culverdon storm it most likely would’ve been over so we went home.

A great day had by all, not the most active lightning wise but some definitely happened. Had it been a night time storm I possible would’ve been talking about all the lightning we saw.

Weather Maps

1800z 30/12/2004
0000z 31/12/2004
0600z 31/12/2004