Alberta Foothills Weather

Sleepy July ends with a bang

Trying to make a post in July about interesting July weather was an impossible task.
Plenty of miles driven, quite a few photos taken, but really nothing very interesting around here for three full weeks.
Warm smoky air aloft, pushed up from burning Colorado, really put a damper on everything, snuffing out any storms before they could get off the foothills. Some good hailstorms to the north and south, and some beautiful big cells right in the mountains, but in hail alley where July supercells are usually abundant, there were few.
Big heat and humidity is usually a cue for something ugly to come out of the hills but the warm chapeau above would not break, promising looking setups melting away into the soup.
The always present smoke took most of the fun out of canola season this year, hazing out any nice puffs that did manage to sprout.
Of the last 4 days of July, we had tornado warnings for three of them.
The foothills roared to life on Saturday the 28th, cells streaming out early in the day. I got a late start and headed west to see what was coming, just a bit too far north as it turned out. As I was sitting at Dickson Dam watching the horizon I got a call from Brandon that he was watching a tornado on the ground west of Carstairs. A beautiful cell had wrapped up and dropped a very picturesque tube right on highway 22 south of Cremona, yanking a truck and holiday trailer off the road and into a hay field before tearing up a patch of trees and lifting the roof off a ranch house. Brandon’s report and photos from the day can be seen on his blog here.

After a day off on the 29th, the hills came alive again on the 30th. I was out trolling around Bearberry watching and waiting for something to eject, southeast wind roaring into the smoky hills. When it did come out it was in a hurry. Almost as soon as it began to form any structure, it formed a big rotating mesocyclone and within minutes had split into 3 or four large rotating masses. Within minutes of that a sudden low level push from the northwest started to stretch it out towards Sundre and almost immediately a shelf formed, almost to Caroline. To me, shelf means wind, which means retreat, which I did. Flying home to beat the hail, I could not keep ahead of the wind and got stopped 5 feet from the driveway by a big tree down across the road.

July 31st I could not chase and had to watch from afar as storm after storm raked Sundre and Olds with hail. Nasty looking things on radar with spinny bits all over the place I was sure there would be a report of a touchdown somewhere east of Olds but I never heard of one.

The hail planes have really been logging the hours this year, attacking anything that looks like a cloud, and whether or not you believe they make any sort of difference, the crops look amazing. I have only come across two spots of bad hail damage this year, one east of Lacombe and the other south of Bergen road from the wind event. It would be hard to tell the Bergen event happened in the canola field I stopped to look on the 6th. We stopped by the same field on the way down to check out the tornado damage from the 28th and what was canola salad three weeks ago had rejuvinated into a healthy looking patch again, in full bloom.
I haven’t been around Olds since the nasty stuff on the 31st so the crops may be a bit more beat up now.
This is the bad time for hail, cropwise. Heads on cereal crops are huge this year and now they are starting to fill out and gain weight, stems are getting stiffer, starting to dry out a bit and getting fragile.

August long weekend gives a good chance of a surprise somewhere around here. I hope it’s a pretty surprise instead of an ugly one, I’d prefer nothing at all to a repeat of August 3, 2009

July 28 xsm RADAR loop
July 30 xsm RADAR loop
July 31 xsm RADAR loop

Thunderstorm trying to spin up in the Alberta foothills west of Caroline, July 12, 2012Thunderstorm trying to spin up west of Bentley, Alberta, July 18, 2012Stranded updraft in a high shear environment northwest of Rimbey, Alberta, July 23, 2012High shear, fast moving storm north of Eckville, Alberta, July 23, 2012
Darkling shadows roll over the yard, July 24, 2012Weak thunderstorm near Penhold, Alberta -  July 25, 2012Funnel cloud peeks out the bottom of a weak storm north of Stauffer, Alberta - July 28, 2012Tornado damage south of Cremona, Alberta - July 29, 2012
Thunderstorm starting to rotate near Bearberry, Alberta - July 30, 2012Thunderstorm threatening to drop a tornado northwest of Sundre, Alberta, July 30, 2012Thunderstorm starting to stretch out near James River Bridge, July 30, 2012Thunderstorm over Sundre, Alberta - July 31, 2012
Thunderstorm rolling out of the Alberta foothills northwest of Sundre, Alberta - July 12, 2012

A pair of close lightning strikes and ripping thunder from July 20th and July 25th, don’t forget to crank the volume!

One Response to “Sleepy July ends with a bang”

  1. 1
    Dann Cianca Says:

    Good to see ya’ having some fun up there, Boomer!

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