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Severe Sydney Storms: Friday 19th December 1997
by David Croan

Instability was evident from early morning on this particular day. Travelling from my weekday residence at Beacon Hill on the Northern beaches to work at Pymble, I noticed extensive cumulus developmernt, with some towers going up across the metropolitan area.

From mid-morning some storms were firing towards the south and south east. During my lunch break, I photograped this cell to the south east while a developing Cb tower brought light rain overhead.

More large cells were developing to the west. This was particularly frustrating since I felt the action was really hotting up, however I simply had to get back to work. Sure enough, the BoM had a severe thunderstorm warning out for the metropolitan area at 2:30p.m. Furthermore, despite the general elevation of the north shore of Sydney, our building is set in a valley, with limited visibility to the west in all but the purchasing section. So I rounded up some purchase orders, paid a visit to that section and, gazing through their window, was greeted by an angry looking storm with a sharp looking shelf cloud and a menacing grey/green rain curtain at about 4:00p.m. Of course I had left my camera in the car (which I simply could not get access to). The most severe part of the storm passed a short distance to the North, although we were hit with strong winds and heavy rain. I got out of work at about 5:00p.m. and attempted to chase this storm through peak hour traffic along Mona Vale road (this is my normal route home in anycase). All this time I was following the rear section and, towards Terry Hills, I got out of the car with the rear rain free base just pulling overhead. The rear section was quite turbulent and I found it most impressive to watch, although at ground level it was calm by this stage. I observed some brief (about 30 seconds) rapid circulation although this was soon immersed in the broader area of more unorganised turbulence.

The region which exhibited circulation [clockwise] is at the top centre top

In these situations it is difficult to know what you are looking at (for me at least!) since, with the adrenalin rush, my mind was racing. I was sure it was a wall cloud at the time, but when I look back I suspect it was just the pattern of turbulence - I really don't know. In the past I paid little attention to rear storm structure, so I guess there is no substitute for experience. At this point I decided to head south towards home along the Forest way rather than continue on to Mona Vale. At home I managed this picture of the massive anvil with mammatus, over our house.

This photo is looking north-east and captures the southwest section of the anvil. Towards the right of the picture at nearby Newport, 3cm hail was falling, suggesting that the storm had intensified further.

Document: 9712-02.htm
Updated: 5th May, 2005
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