Lightning & Gustnadoes - Victoria

Macca, Chris & Nick

19th & 20th November 2003

Chris, Nick and I chased together out to Horsham on Tuesday night, getting an OK lightning display to our NW (near the border) as we arrived in town.

On Wednesday, we intercepted a nice little multicell near Edenhope (WSW of Horsham) at about 11am but we left this storm at about 11:30am (it continued tracking E and passed over GEELONG!!! about 5 hours later).  We then headed out to Bordertown where the temp was 35C with a DP of 17C!!!.  We headed N towards Pinnaroo as massive cells developed over the Murraylands of SA. Unfortunately, from Pinnaroo we decided not to head N to intercept the stuff out near Loxton (moving NE on radar whilst everything else moved SE... - why we didn't I do not know...).  Anyway - we got some nice thunder etc around Pinnaroo and then it went quiet for a while so we decided to head towards Ouyen for the night in preparation for the next day (in N Cent Vic) and also in case storms developed in the evening.   Got to Ouyen at about 7pm, had dinner, went out of town about 5km to the W and got the best lightning show I have ever seen.  Storms in about 270 degrees of the sky with about 5 flashes per second.  We were very lucky in that a cell developed about 15km to our WNW (moving ESE) and started dropping out CG's all over the place and gradually getting closer and closer.  Eventually it got too dangerous to be out there (my car was the highest thing for about 5km and I'm sure if we'd stayed out there, we would've been hit).  We headed back to the pub where we were staying and conveniently it had a 2nd storey balcony looking E (would've been nice to have it looking W but the storm was on top of us anyway).  For the next hour or so, we just videoed and took pics of the lightning.   The pub lost power several times and the rain was some of the heaviest I have seen.   It was somewhat accentuated by the 40knt winds

Thursday morning we were on the road by 7:30am, heading for N Vic (Echuca) as it looked like that would be the area to go up.  Cloud/rain band was a bit of an issue to our W and there was nice clearing to the E so that's where we headed.  Temps and DP's were around 32/19 across the NE of the state :)!!!.  We stopped in Echuca at about 11:30am for a quick net check and things were starting to look interesting. 

At about 12, the cap broke and the sky just exploded with Cu.  The rainband I mentioned earlier tracked eastwards at about 90km/h so was not far behind us but these cells developed just ahead of it.  Two large RFB's started to precip (one right on us) near Numurkah and within about 25 mins, it was a full blown squall line.  Dust was blowing everywhere as microbursts pushed out ahead of the precip.  We raced (literally) E wards but a few turns in the road later, we were in serious trouble.  A massive downburst had gone down behind us and it sent outflow winds of about 110km/h racing towards us.  Dust and branches and shit was blowing everywhere.  Nick then starts screaming at Chris and I from the back seat "GUSTNADO!!!!!!!!" (yes - he got it on video).  We turned around to see this 20m wide multi-vortex gustnado churning up the road towards us and it was only about 30m behind us!  I floored it to 120km/h and the bloody thing wasn't getting any further away!!!!  IT WAS MOVING AT 120KM/h!!!!!  Add to that the speed of the rotation and it'd give winds easily up into the F1 category!!!!  Chris screamed at me to go faster "like 150km/h faster".  SO I sped up to 140km/h whilst dodging debris and stuff all over the road and the gustnado moved slightly N of the road.  

Winds were still gusting over 100km/h and we knew our road ended soon and we had to go N before we could go E again and branches were breaking off everywhere.  One landed on the bonnet of my car smashing my headlight, denting the front right panel and dented and scratched the bonnet in about 15 places (my car's first battle scars!!!).   Anyway - the gustnado was still churning across the paddock to our NW (about 1km away) and it went over the top of a tree and the tree just disintegrated - all its branches just blew off in all directions (no video of this...).  We kinda lost sight of it as we went over a hill and we came to the end of our road.  We blasted N with the strongest outflow about 800m to our W now.  We had to go 3km N before our turnoff to the E.  We didn't make  Another BIG gustnado developed to our NW and we were on a direct collision course with it so we had to stop in an area with no trees (about 200m from where it crossed the road).  The dust up the road where it crossed was so thick that you couldn't see cars until they came out of it!!!  Several cars up the road ahead of us had to stop when a few trees came down as it crossed the road (*very* glad we didn't try and beat it after seeing this).  Anyway - we kinda gave up our chase here as there was no way we could get ahead of this again and it was getting too dangerous.  We still blasted E along the next road just in case we could get in front of it but to no avail.  We stopped at the next North/South intersection wondering what to do (winds still gusting to 100km/h  There was an old house on the corner and a BIG gust came through and ripped a piece of tin (about 1m x 3m) off its roof and blew it about 20m across the road beside us!!! (not on video...).  I jumped out and had a quick look at the damage to the car and realised that the headlight wasn't working at all.  That kinda killed our hope of getting a lightning show that night as I don't think a 3 hour drive down the Hume Hwy with 1 headlight is a good idea.  We were all exhausted anyway (after two nights in a row of 4hrs sleep) so we headed home.   A rather eventful 3 day chase which could've been better as storms developed for half the night over NE Vic....ah well.  Can't do it all.

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