Michael Thompson's Australian Storm Chase Diary
19th November 2001- Glen Innes - Coffs Harbour, non severe storms
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Looking at this sight at 8am in the morning I thought that I could not miss. The congestus line also led me to believe that the trough line was not far ahead of me, I was wrong. The congestus was forming into storms on the edge of the ranges and provided the NSW north coast with morning activity. Winds at Glen Innes were cool west.
I decided that the Warwick - Toowoomba area may fire later in the day. That area is superb chasing territory. There was constant static on the AM radio. At Tenterfield it was much warmer and winds back to NW, I called in at the local library to determine just where these storms were. To my horror they were already well past Toowoomba ( another 90 mins away ) and were moving NE rapidly.
I wasted no time and headed NE too. From Stanthorpe to Warwick in Queensland, the highway drops from the high plateau down onto the Darling Downs. I knew that the weather would be different. I knew that the low based congestus would clear. This much was correct, however as I dropped altitude the wind picked up from the SW and a stable flat layer of strato cumulus was revealed to the west. There was not a chance of activity here now.
At Toowoomba at noon I once again looked at the radar and lightning tracker, already the storms were pushing towards Bundaberg. I now knew I did not have a hope in hell of catching these. To rub salt into the wounds a severe storm advice was issued for the Capricorn area. Looking back at the radar I noticed that in NE New South Wales a few weak storms were forming on the ranges.
I headed from Toowoomba bound for NE NSW, a good two hours away. About 50 kms short of the coast, the stable SW wind gave back way to humid NE conditions. Large cumulus had just recently cleared the coast and lay just seaward. There was some development over the border ranges too, and this provided me a weak storm with very heavy rain near Coolangatta on the state border. At Murwillumbah there was a congestus line to the SW, some of this was showing weak glaciation. There were storms in NE NSW, but would I get one ?
I passed under the congestus line just south of Murwillumbah. I then noticed that the wind had changed to SE. This was actually the frontal line. The same line that had passed through Warwick in the morning was only just affecting the border, strange indeed but all perfectly explained by the synoptic chart.
I decided that any activity in this was bound to be very weak, and with much stratocumulus now streaming in from the south I kept heading that way too.
I decided that Coffs Harbour would be the stay for the night. I noticed too that despite the fact that the SE change was now well established that there was still congestus forming along the ranges. I also knew that the ranges came right to Coffs Harbour's doorstep. I thought that if nothing else it would be raining there.
As I neared Coffs sure enough the heavy rain started, but imagine my surprise when lightning flashed ahead.
The storm was not particularly active, lightning perhaps once every 30 seconds, but the rain was torrential. A fitting end for the day.
As I checked into my motel a close CG banged, the motel proprietor did not even bat an eyelid. I thought to myself it is probably a common sound in Coffs Harbour.