Trentham Stormchasers 2009 USA Roadtrip

Stormchase 26th May 2009: Pampa, Texas via New Mexico to the 4 Corners (Cortez, Colorado)

Report: Clyve Herbert

So we pull the pin at Pampa after a 15 hour stormchase left us panting...we set off early bound for the 4 corners regions (that's where you can stand on one toe and be in 4 states at one time - Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona & Utah - brings the total number of states visited to 17 in a month). Before we left we didn't listen to the NOAA weather radio for alerts - we turned it off....we didn't listen to the hoopla from The Weather Channel, and we didn't do a weather analysis. If anything happened in Texas on the day we left we didn't want to know about it.

We travelled west on the I-40 passing into New Mexico, and our plan was really just to travel (with a bit of sightseeing). No sooner had we entered New Mexico, than we spotted a brand new Cb off to the's only 10am! If you;'e a genuine stormchaser and you see something like that, you just want to chase more. So we alter our route - instead of running west on the I-40 all the way to the Arizona border, we deviate at Albuquerque (that's the place where Bugs Bunny made a left turn and ended up in Africa). We eventually arrive in the late afternoon in far northwest New Mexico - the road rises gradually before Albuquerque and the city has a backdrop to a spectacular range of mountains.

We notice some of the congesting Cu are glaciating at a low altitude - even dropping showers. But this is an illusion.....especially when you realise that you are already 7,000' ASL. These showers / storms are high based stuff and we estimate their bases around 13-14,000'. The best towers tend to grow over high ground and produce spectacular anvils in their weakening stages. We soon also realise that their precipitation tends to be predominantly virga. We continue north into Colorado for a look around Durango - here, some of the storms are looking really good! Durango is a congested tourist mecca and we flee west to Cortez.

In this part of the world, the countryside is spectacular. The upland meadows are a brilliant green, while the valleys become semi arid scrubland. The backdrop of Hesperus Mountain between Durango and Cortez (~13,200'), still snow capped after a chilly spring over much of the Rockies was breathtaking. We approach Cortez and see a brilliant display of a multicell maturing virtually over the town. To the north, another large multicell matures, and we are again in storm heaven.

Report: Clyve Herbert

Photography: Jane ONeill / Clyve Herbert

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High based showers, New Mexico

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Even relatively small Cu were glaciating - the dewpoint must have been near zero

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Although the anvils looked great, very little prcipitation was falling to the surface

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The light conditions allowed great contrast in backdrop to the mesas.

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Occasionally a surprisingly strong rainshaft appeared under some of the higher topped storms, Bondad, CO

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Spectacular silhouetted multicell, Ute Mtn, Cortez

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Strong pulse north of Cortez late evening.

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Fantastic anvil, Ute Mtn, Cortez

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