June 9, 2018

Viking – Cold Lake AB

THIS WAS MY FIRST STORM CHASE IN THE PRAIRIES OF WESTERN CANADA AND IT DID NOT DISAPPOINT! Seeing the potential for supercells and – maybe – tornadoes with the incoming system, Kyle Robertson and I made a spontaneous decision the day before to make the trek to Alberta for a chase. We landed in Edmonton in the late morning on April 9 and quickly set our target. We liked the area northwest of Loydminster, and set off to the town of Viking to stage. No sooner than we arrived, the first sells of the day began to explode to our southwest, and we blasted north toward Two Hills as we intercepted our first storm of the day.

North of St Paul, the storm began to take on supercellular characteristics as it the dominant updraft in the line took over. Low and mid-level striations, a circular base and ideal contrast made for a stunning scene over the landscape. As we moved with the storm toward Bonnyville, the rotation increased tremendously as RFD surged in and generated wall clouds that exhibited rapid rotation. Several times in appeared that a tornado was imminent, but we could never confirm a touch down.

As the supercell moved across Cold Lake, we decided to head east to the far side of the lake to watch it depart. Our chase had led us to the extreme edge of the prairie and we were now at the edge of the boreal forest. Dense forest and near-zero roads meant we could no longer keep up with or pursue our storm. North of Cherry Grove, we drive north on a rough and muddy dirt road to watch our cell move away as the line pushed in behind it. Here, we were treated to the most spectacular shelf cloud I have ever seen in ten years of storm chasing.

The shelf was a scene I’ll never forget. Once it passed we began the drive southwest toward Saskatoon, through nickel to quarter-sized hail and torrential rain. Along the way, the lightning was fantastic, with a near constant barrage of CGs. Kyle taught me how to capture bolts while driving, and I was able to catch a pretty awesome shot of a bolt that fanned out in a ‘V’ over the road ahead of us. All in all, the chase was a tremendous success and an awesome introduction to chasing the Canadian Prairies!

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