On Sunday 19th it seemed likely that storms would
fire along a convergence-zone across the Welsh
mountains and here I headed. However it seemed
that things were not getting going as they ought
to. This was taken near Rhayader.
Towerlike cumulus clouds were shooting up but
were not developing further, despite their
potentially menacing appearance. I called a
colleague and learnt that a mid-level inversion
was present over the southern half of Wales but
storms were firing over NE Wales and W
On my way
northeast I caught this shaft of sunlight
blasting its way down the side of a tower....
This was taken looking NE from the Kerry
Ridgeway, in the Borders near Bishops Castle.
Torrential rain is falling over the Long Mynd and
the Stiperstones. Thunder was occasional but
booming as it echoed around the hills....
This area seemed to be the "feeder" for
storms that then ran NE along the
convergence-line. Lots of
"scud-funnels" kept appearing and
disappearing, but nothing more spectacular than
that. So after a while I headed N along the
Shrewsbury road. Here I soon ran into much
flooding - nothing too bad but very
Scenes like this were commonplace - obviously the
amount of rain involved had overwhelmed the
drainage-system. It was certainly a fairly
violent storm with now frequent lightning and
large hail was reported in Shrewsbury itself. I
fought back westwards along the Shrewsbury
bypass, just about able to see where I was going,
and got out of the murky storm-skies on the road
This was a wet end to the day then, but the
flash-floods that tore up the Yorkshire village
of Helmsley that afternoon were out of all
proportion to what I saw. Up there a storm
produced exceptional rainfall rates: 60mm fell in
30 minutes at its height.
28th June came around and widespread thunder was
forecast as a plume of warm air destabilised over
the UK. Instability became evident by early
afternoon as dark-based Ac-Cas (Altocumulus
Castellanus) clouds began to build high over the
hills. Ac-Cas storms are a common feature of
destabilising thermal plumes in summer. They can
lead to high-based thunderstorms - hence the
"alto" bit of the name - with
cloudbases typically 6-12,000 feet up. Another
feature of such stormclouds is that they are
commonly very active electrically....
....while another feature is that they can be
difficult to photograph well, except if you are
lucky enough to have them passing by at night
when they create superb opportunities for
lightning photography. Here, in the late
afternoon, a high-based storm is moving NE up the
Cardigan Bay coast. Its structure is largely
obscured by other cloud but you could easily hear
from the constant booming that it meant
I am about to move back NE as the rain-core and
frequent C-G lightning are both very close now.
Amazingly, just before I took this I saw several
people swimming in the sea. They must have been
aware of the lightning bolts striking the sea's
surface less than a mile away. Public perception
of the danger posed by lightning is sometimes
nonexistant, I mused as I headed back towards
once on the way back (the view SW was too
obscured the rest of the way). This thing was
really hot on my heels now! The swirls in the
cloudbase are typical of such storms - and some
much better examples have been photographed in
the UK recently. What I wanted to avoid was being
caught in torrential rain with its attendant
travel risks, so it was time to get moving!
Daytime lightning is tricky
to photograph (understatement of the year!) - I
had a try at Borth but failed - you cannot leave
the shutter open for long enough to capture it
unless there's a strike every second or so.
Strikes were every few seconds and with a maximum
exposure of 0.7sec at F22 I had no chance really.
The price of film is another factor!
Sion Ilar of Aberystwyth uses a digital camera
and here there are less constraints, but you
still need to put a lot of work in. Sion took 60
shots with his Canon 10D and got two with
lightning on them and 58 without! This is a good
shot and is Sion's copyright as is the one
below.... wait for it.....
This deserves a prize! Great composition, and the
lightning chose to strike very neatly to
compliment it! Thanks, Sion!
Meanwhile in Machynlleth, I parked up and
photographed the storm's gust-front as it bore
down on Ysgol Bro Dyfi. Within minutes, daytime
darkness had descended on us and then the rain
started bouncing off the roads. Thunder rolled
and crashed - sometimes simultaneously with the
lightning - making for an enjoyable half-hour
with the rest of the locals at the White Lion -
storms and Guinness all at once!
Sirens were heard and somebody said a fire engine
had gone down my street. Concerned that my house
might be flooded, I set off home. The rain had
now eased and the thunder was more distant,
rolling among the hills. Light conditions were
The fire brigade were pumping out a blocked
storm-drain. Luckily someone had noticed what was
happening and called them out in time. Water was
building up quickly in this area - some of these
houses were flooded in the July 3rd 2001 storm -
but this time they were saved from the ordeal.
Wednesday 29th June saw further storms over the
Welsh hills but these were unphotogenic. Here
they can be seen in a satellite image (courtesy
Bernard Burton) - but just look at the huge
storms across parts of France, Belgium, The
Netherlands and further south!
I did go out for a look but this time there were
few results. This one illustrates a hazard of
chasing in the Welsh hills!
Since that time largely dry and warm to hot
conditions have prevailed. Vegetation is
browning-off and the ground is hard and dusty.
Talk is of hosepipe bans in some parts of the UK
and it's certainly the case that we need some
significant rain soon. Might be something to
photograph again then!
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