My top 10 weather events

This is my top 10 weather events I have experienced. Each day I am going to share a different weather event that I have experienced and give a bit of background to the event and how it shaped my love of the weather.

Number 1 is the January 2005 storm in the Western isles. It could only be this one really.

What a storm. From a meteorological standpoint it was something else winds widely in excess of 100 mph. Winds over 115 mph reported on the West of Lewis and 120 mph in Barra. The pressure dropped to 944 mb and the isobars where tightly packed. From a human standpoint this was a tragic event with the loss of the the family of 5 in the Uists. The damage for islands that where so used to storms was bad.

I was 16 and still in college. Blue skies and calm conditions in the morning, we where sent home at 1pm. I didn’t know what I knew now about storms. But the island was going into lockdown. I had only been on the island for 6 months. This was a lockdown from the weather not from a virus. This was the real calm before the storm.

We had an idea it could be bad. Very few knew it was going to be this bad. The strong winds started in the late afternoon and barely relented for the next 36 hours. This has already been a winter with a number of storms.

The house shook and the power kept dropping out. The windows creaked and groaned. Tiles became projectiles. Eventually we lost it for 6 hours. We where the lucky ones. Some lost for days and longer. The road to my part of the island runs next to the sea and was closed for hours as huge rocks flew across the sea wall.

Many homes were damaged. The sign from the coop landed in the local school grounds up the road. Boats ran aground and the wind, rain and tide battered the coastguard station. They dealt in coordination with other emergency services with an unprecedented amount of incidents.

For me this is where it all took off. This was no longer just an interest in the weather this became a proper passion. The internet was really coming into its own In 2005. Forums where big and I found other like minded people who shared a passion for the weather. I wanted to learn more and find out more.

This storm rocked these islands. But as ever it brought the community together as ever big storm does. The incredible nature and the willingness of others to help each other during the rough times.

You had been here to experience it to really understand how bad this storm was. Every islander who experienced that storm will never forgot it.

Number 2 is the January 2015 storm in the Western isles.

So I really wasn’t sure if this should be number 1 of not. But in the end I went for number 2.

113 mph winds battered the island on the 9th January 2015. Not many people can say that have experienced winds to that strength.

This was well built up before it hit. My weather page was extremely active. I remember the storm hitting and the windows where shaking the peak of the storm and strongest wind gusts came at 1 am.

This was the strongest wind speed recorded at the Met office site in Stornoway since its installation in 1970.

Significant damage occurred to many homes and business with properties being with out power for days on end. Roof tiles became projectiles. Trees down. Roads where closed.

It was the busiest I have ever been with my weather page. Right up until the lights went out and I had 9 hours without updating.

Another one of those storms that I will never forget.

Number 3 is the Nebraska tornadoes of 2019.

The top 3 has changed a lot for me . The reason this hasn’t made the top two despite being an incredible day was the other two had longer lasting impacts and greater influence on my love of the weather.

This was the perfect day storm chasing. Finally got the photogenic tornadoes. This day we seek 5 tornadoes one after the other. The best part for me was none of the previous 13 I had witnessed where that photogenic. Either at night, wrapped in dust or just not what you would call photogenic.

3 of of the 5 we seen that day where stunning. The first rolled over the top of our car it was a small spin up but was still rated by the storm prediction centre. The second one was this fairly large tornado featured in the photo below. The next two we witnessed by the side of the road and where equally photogenic. The final one was rain wrapped by you could make it out and it did some damage.

2019 storm chase was significant for me as i witnessed everything I wanted to see as a storm chaser. For now I have “retired” but never say never again. It’s quite the addictive thing to chase storms. I’ve been fortunate enough to make some incredible friendships and have some amazing memories that will last a lifetime.

Number 4 is the 25/26 June thunderstom event!

What a set of thunderstorms this was. What a day the first thunderstorms occurred around 4 pm. Then the second wave came into the evening and lasted for hours.

It was the most intense thunderstorms I have ever witnessed in the UK.

I did a full blog post on this before

Number 5 is La Crosse Kansas 2012.

The first tornadoes on the list. What a day what a night.

The incredible photo was capture by Arron Hiscox its as a storm that produced multiple tornadoes. This was my second trip to the USA and my first was in 2011 where I didn’t see a single tornado. This day however we witnessed 6/7 tornados it depends on who was counting 😂

We battled burst tyres and dirt track roads to finally eventually get into position for what would be amazing evening. It was incredible and even at moments scary. First a slight detour not many people know this…. but I’ve always had a fear of lightning. Not ideal for a storm chaser. It stems back to the mid 90s! I almost and I mean almost got struck by a lightning bolt. It felt like it came out of the blue, one night after a scout meeting when I walking back from the scout hut to the car. The lightning bolt struck the field where I was walking. I won’t ever forgot that. So yeah always have been that little bit more wary than others.

But standing by the side of the road in Kansas watching this incredible show unfold in the fields will never leave me. It was a sensation over load. The tornado sirens in the nearby town. The sound of the insects in the grass below. The storm and the lightning bolts illuminating the sky and tornadoes. You could feel the warm air as it was whipped from the dusty fields into a frenzy against the back of our legs as it was drawn into the storm. The sound of excited chatter from storm chasers.

The town of La Crosse suffered minor damage from these tornadoes. On Wikipedia you can search for La Crosse Kansas and the main history for the town covers these tornadoes and it’s also home to the national barbed wire museum 😂

I’ve been storm chasing 5 times in total now and it’s still an utterly incredible experience.

Number 6 is Snow of 1995

The earliest weather event I remember. I was 6 at the time. But it was one of those events that really pushed my love of the weather.

There are patchy memories of the event but as you can see from the photo included in this post I was utterly in my element. We had in the region of 13 cm of snow fall by the end of this event. Which for West Coast Lancashire was rare. We never really got much snow and this lasted for days.

I remember walking in the snow to school in the snow. Yeah no snow day 🧐. Also going into the town centre. It was there memories always stuck.

It made my even more obsessed with the weather and learning more. I used to watch hours and hours of natural disaster documentaries.

Number 7

is the cold and snowy winter of 2010/11.

Strangely I don’t remember much about it but it was the worst snow I had experienced since 1995. I really don’t like driving in the snow and this snow lasted for weeks and months and it just became a frozen mess.

Snow never lasts very long in the Western isles but this was the second winter in a row after 2009/10 where we had sustained spells of snow on the ground for more then 3 days.

This winter 2010/11 broke all sorts of weather records and caused massive travel disruption. It gave rise to the iconic image of most of the UK covered in snow

Number 8

is from the summer of 2015. Bournemouth England. I was away for my Coastguard training. It was a Friday evening. We where in a relaxed mood and I was super excited about the chance of thunderstorms. Temperatures had risen to over 30C during the day and you could feel the atmosphere was ready to go bang. I spent the entire evening glued to radar.

Most of the storms to my endless frustration went to our North and South then as I was feeling like giving up. Then about 20:45 a storm moved ashore and just sat over Bournemouth and pinged our 45 mins of mental lightning it was unreal. The most intense storm I have experienced in the UK until the 25th July thunderstorms on Lewis

Honourable mention has to go to a lightning storm at 4 am in stornoway in 2014 I mean the entire North West coast of Scotland was impacted. With thousands of lightning strikes detected by a local station. I was woken up by it and it was like a disco with constant flashing.

My only two years old weather page lit up like a Christmas tree. The entire island was awoken by these storms. I had one lovely older lady message to say how thankful she was for my weather page. As she felt lonely and terrified by all the storms but because of my page and the fact that others were going through the same made her feel less alone and it was oddly reassuring.

Here is a thunderstorm video from that event

Number 9

is from storm chase 2017 with 3 inch hail in Colorado. (I think it was 25th May) We had been chasing this supercell in Colorado. It was huge and rotating. We had been on a dirt track which became a green farmers track to our surprise.

We did eventually get on to the main highway and this monster of a supercell started dropping larger and larger hail. Eventually up to 3 inches in size. You can here then thuds the cars where taking. Somehow our car got less damage than the other two. We did have to bail out from the storm as the hail storm conditions worsened. We did pass a Jackknifed lorry which has been blown over by the wind.

This was a thrilling chase day. After 4 trips to the USA it finally gave me large hailstones the biggest I’ve ever witnessed and it was really exciting to experience.

This is a video from that day. Please note there is bad language throughout.

Number 10

is flash flooding in Stornoway. So a band of very intense rainfall stalled over stornoway on a Thursday 18 July afternoon in the summer 2009. Dumping 44 mm of rain in under 3 hours. I was driving in stornoway at the time of the heaviest of the rain. The normal couple of minutes drive from one end of the town centre took me 45 mins as traffic ground to a halt.

Drive a couple mins out of town towards Lochs, Point or Newmarket and it was dry. A narrow but intense band of rain! This was 3 years before Western isles weather started and social media was in its infancy. I think we would have a lot more photos and videos if it happened now.

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