Michael Thompson's Australian Storm Chase Diary
31st January 2008, Wollongong to Livepool, NSW

All photos (except video stills ) clickable for larger size

Very low base over Illawarra escarpment
Hail near Bulli
A very low based storm develops over the Illawarra Escarpment

Hail near Bulli

Good setup days and work, not a desirable mixture. Having to work today offered mixed blessings. The day was forecast to have around 1600 CAPE in the Southern Highlands area - if it was not a work day I would have chased that area, and from reports received that would have been close to a bust. On the other hand I do not take a video camera to work and this cost me some fantastic footage.

This storm was the sort that was an experience to chase, but one in which a still camera was next to useless at times.

I left work at 4pm and took a nice picture of a brooding base over the Illawarra escarpment. The green told me that despite the appearances of outflow, that there was serious updraft action. After a few CG's in the area I knew that rain would fallen so I headed north along the coast road.
I was in the core of the first storm for almost 20 minutes. The experience was one of the more exciting of my chase career. Near Woonona I lost sight of the road completely, it had flooded from kerb to kerb and over the top. This was serious flash flooding and in my little Corolla as opposed to my normal 4WD a bid concerning. It was not just the flash flooding, but wind and hail. The lightning was some of the most intense I have seen.

I finally cleared the storm line at Waterfall on the southern suburbs of Sydney.


The Illawarra storm moves east over the ocean
Panorama of Holsworthy cell
Waterfall looking south - the Illawarra storm moves east over ocean Panorama of Holsworthy cell
In the core at Holsworthy
A tree across the road at Moorebank
In the core at Holsworthy - bigger picture is better at showing winds A tree across the road at Moorebank

At Waterfall i watched the Illawarra move offshore. A combination of outflow and already existing higher based convection in SW Sydney began to take off. At first the base features were rather bland, but after 3 or 4 lightning bolts well ahead of any rain area I knew again that above the bases there was unseen potential. I headed up the Heathcothe road and as I approached Holsworthy a better organised storm developed. I knew that this storm may produce a microburst as the temperature here was in the low 30C range. I was not wrong and round two for the day occurred at Holsworthy - Moorebank. The wind was very strong with numerous branches down. A tree fell across the road a few hundred metres in front of me. The only option was to drive the footpath around it.