This video shows my storm chasing trip on Thursday, May 5, 2016. My trip lasted from around 3 p.m. to roughly 10 p.m. Places I traveled to included Tracy, Lathrop, & Santa Nella Village, CA (west of Los Banos). Heavy traffic was encountered along I-680 and I-580, then took a detour thru Tracy and officially did my first stop/rest at Lathrop, CA to observe the stormy skies. After resting up at the Target parking lot, I checked the radar and there was a line of potentially strong t-storms developing along I-5 or so. The line of storms had stretched from just west of Gustine, CA all the way down to the Bakersfield area. So, I quickly speeded down I-5 from Lathrop, on the way to Santa Nella to catch up to the northernmost end of the storm line. It was pretty crazy how the skies darkened near the horizon as I neared the storms. A severe t-storm warning was also heard on the radio! The severe-warned storm had potentially dumped quarter sized hail and 60+ mph winds as it slowly moved its way over I-5 and into Los Banos around sunset/early evening... As I neared Santa Nella, lightning was observed. Near the Romero Visitor Center at the San Luis Reservoir, a vehicle was struck by lightning. Along I-5 between highways 145 and 198, there were multiple reports of power poles catching fire.
I parked at the Starbucks parking lot to view the storm(s) as they came in slowly from the south. VERY heavy downpours were also experienced. Boy, I thought the heavy rain we experience back in San Jose was heavy! The lightning was epic as well. It was a crazy Cinco de Mayo for me indeed...
Weather scenario, particularly for May 4-7, 2016:
A big shift in the weather had occurred in California as an 'omega block' had formed across North America. A southward dip in the jet stream had built into the West mid-to-late week, as a ridge of high pressure had shifted into the center of the country. This had brought convective t-storms to much of our state, especially from May 5-7, 2016 as numerous t-storms have popped up. Some of the storms have been able to sustain themselves after moving westward from the Sierras into the Central Valley, resulting in a number of very intense t-storms that had produced quite a bit of hail, localized flooding, and even a couple of tornadoes.
As we know, t-storms are rather unusual for California, so it’s not surprising that we don’t often see a chance of t-storms in our forecast in urban areas for a few consecutive days, courtesy of a slow-moving cut-off low hovering over the coastline or so. This low, despite it being moisture-starved, had brought a very unstable airmass (at least by California standards), bringing a prolonged period of convective activity thru the weekend to the state. Surely, this weather pattern had brought the rather unusual chance of t-storms in areas such as San Francisco & Los Angeles on several consecutive days. More significant weather (locally including hail and intense downpours) had occurred in spots. A few severe storms (especially in the Central Valley on Thursday) have occurred and I managed to successfully encounter one on my storm chasing trip this day of Thursday, May 5, 2016! It was probably the best storm chase I've done in a while... Looking ahead, the convective weather pattern was to come to an end as high pressure was to be back along the coast. Stay safe out there, folks!
(Video footage filmed Thursday afternoon/evening, May 5, 2016)