July 3, 2008 Santa Fe, NM Area Chase

by John Farley

Another pleasant surprise-3 very photogenic storms, and I didn't have to drive more than 20 miles from Santa Fe to see them! This afternoon I noticed a strong storm just southeast of the Santa Fe area (actually my wife, who was out in the swimming pool, noticed it first and pointed it out to me). I decided to head out and try to get some pictures, and I didn't have to go far to see the storm's great structure. Note the rainfoot at the lower right, and the strong updraft on the left side of the storm in this picture:

This picture was taken looking to the southeast, from along route 599, the Santa Fe bypass route, as the storm moved slowly to the south-southwest. A few minutes later, the storm developed some nice hail shafts - note particularly the one near the lower center of the picture. Then, as I got a little farther down 599, within sight of I-25, I noticed a nice haboob (surge of dust created by strong outflow wind from the storm) off to my south:

Before long dust was flying all around me, as the gust front surged west and northwest from the storm. Around this time, about 3 p.m., the storm went SVR-warned based on spotter reports of 1-inch hail in the Eldorado-Lamy area. At this time, a new tower was going up just NW of the storm, and a little farther to the NW, a line of towers was going up, with one cell already producing rain, along what appeared to be a line from about Bandolier National Monument to just northeast of Cochiti Lake. When the gust front hit this, it went nuts, exploding into a line of intense thunderstorms. I headed down I-25 and crossed under the updraft base of this developing line of storms at about La Bajada Hill on I-25, and exited at the Cochiti Lake exit, heading west about a mile where I stopped to watch the exploding line of storms, now just to my north. Soon, I was in the hail:

Most of the hail was around 1/3 to 1/2 inch in diameter, but it got heavier and seemed to be getting larger, so I decided to head back to I-25 and to back to the top of La Bajada, as the heaviest of the core was just west of I-25 heading directly toward where I was sitting. As I went back toward 25, the amount of hail decreased, but the size got a little larger, with a few dime to penny sized stones. When I got back to the top of the hill and exited at the first exit, there was less rain and hail but still a little. I had a good view of the updraft base on the back (NE) side of the storm, and was treated to a good lightning show:

After a while this part of the line weakened, so I went back down the hill to see if there was any accumulation of hail on the ground, but there was not. So I headed back to Santa Fe. As I did, I noticed a new broken line of storms north of the city. A particularly intense cell was near the foot of the mountains, and soon there was quite a bit of rising scud under this cell's updraft. To my amazement, this evolved into a rather impressive, though non-rotating, wall cloud:

This picture was taken looking northeast at the storm, which was moving about due south - which puts the wall cloud on its inflow side, right under the main updraft where you would expect it to be. Around this time the NWS in Albuquerque issued a special weather statement indicating this storm's potential for half-inch hail and 50 mph wind gusts. This storm gave me some great structure and I was lucky enough to catch some lightning with the mountains in the background:

This final storm produced an inch of rain, and probably at least some small hail, around the Espanola area and just to the southeast. Not a bad day of storm observation - 2 severe storms and a third that was very close, and all never having to drive more than 20 miles from Santa Fe.

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