16 March 2013

Chase Date: 16th March 2013

After picking up a couple of friends and fuelling up, we headed out of the city towards Northam. The plan was to get out past town, park on top of a hill and check out what was happening to the east. As we headed out, I started to think that perhaps I had read the radar wrong. Perhaps the forecast storms had dissipated. But it was a nice day for a drive and we were all keen to get out and take some great photo’s anyway.  The wheatbelt is a fantastic place for a photographer. There is no end to interesting views, plants, animals and man-made objects to photograph.

As we neared Northam, it became clear that there were indeed storms forming and one in particular grabbed our attention.  The excitement level went up a notch and we made the call to head straight for the cell in front of us.  We drove out to Cunderdin and then headed north toward Wyalkatchem.

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Half way between Cunderdin and Wyalkatchem, we stopped on top of a ridge to survey the situation (photo above).  From Wyalkatchem we headed east. The storm in front of was growing in size and every now and then it would form a ‘cap’ as it pushed through various layers of colder air.  But this cell was moving to the SE fast and we soon realised that were not going to get in front of it.  So we pulled over to check out another storm that was forming to the north east. I love just pulling over on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere. You can find all sorts of interesting things to photograph.  The following photo is a view of the storm that had outrun us.

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We also got some great shots of the setting sun from this location.  There is something special about wheatbelt sunsets.

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From here, we set off into the growing darkness towards Nungarin, turning north along Karomin Road. As we raced toward Mukinbudin, we were surrounded by storm cells lighting up the sky with internal cloud lightning.

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We soon found ourselves on top of Gnammamoning Hill, about 10km’s SWS of Mukinbudin.  With an unobstructed view from the side of the road, we set our cameras and got ready. What developed in front of us was nothing short of awesome.  With the lights of town as a perfect focus point, we were able to capture hundreds of images of this very large system as it passed just north of Mukka.  The following sequence is just a few of those shots.  The storm seemed to stall for about an hour. I think this was due to the strong easterly. I also think there might have been some rotation. This is yet to be confirmed.

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After about an hour, the storm changed shape and started heading in a SE direction again.  It picked up speed and the rate of lightning started to drop.  For a moment, we though it was going to head closer to our position. We had a brief discussion about our escape plan, but after a while we realised it was moving away. As it passed directly east of our position, I got these amazing images, which give you a sense of the scale of this system.

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It was time to head back to Perth, so we packed up our gear and headed due south toward Merredin.  All the way we had the most awesome light show off to the east.  At Merredin, we fuelled up and grabbed a feed for the trip home.

I hope you enjoyed this chase report.  Hopefully, it will be the first of many.

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