Northern Alberta Institute of Technology

Hit the road with one of Alberta's top storm chasers

Season finale: "Things aren't going as we expected."


Sometimes, nature fools us. On this late-July chase, we headed south of Edmonton, near Ponoka, and waited for a storm to blow up as we'd anticipated. This time, however, things didn't go as predicted.

But as we followed the cold front north, the skies impressed us nonetheless, and we captured some beautiful images in this last installment of our stormchasing vlog series.

Thanks to everyone for watching. We'll continue the chase next year! Follow along on @PrairieChasers.

Vlog 4: "This one did some major damage."


Wow. What a storm. This one did some major damage.

Thunder and lightning filled the Edmonton sky around 2 a.m., Friday the 13th. After a potent nocturnal thunderstorm moved through and produced 3,000 lightning strikes, we knew the day had only just started.

The overnight thunderstorms pushed air a bit south and created an environment for severe storms and possibly a tornado. That made our target an area stretching from Rocky Mountain House to Ponoka. The first storm went up around 4 p.m.; by 5 p.m. it was a beast. This storm ate a lot of crops in its path, and when it suddenly shifted southeast, it bit me as well. 

Watch the video as we go on a wild ride avoiding softball hail and trying to find that elusive Alberta tornado, all while reporting the storm live to Environment Canada.

Vlog 3: Tornadopalooza


When July 8 forecast models showed promise for severe weather in the "land of living skies," we decided to hit the road that evening, driving overnight to Saskatchewan. We made Maple Creek, in the southwest corner of the province, at 6 a.m., slept three hours, and carried on to Swift Current to get some lunch before the action started.

By that afternoon, things began to happen, and the atmosphere destabilized. Storms developed quickly to the north of Swift Current, and we watched as three tornadoes developed. Among them was a landspout tornado, which forms from a vigours updraft before the rest of the storm is fully mature, and it came frighteningly close to a farmhouse. Check it out in the video above; look for the little vortex on the ground by the hay bales.

Who says Canada doesn't get violent tornadoes? This might the best chase we have had all year, including  stint in Tornado Alley in the U.S. As for that farmhouse, don't worry. The tornado missed the house. Unfortunately, it destroyed the barn.

Vlog 2: 'Foothills magic' leads to a rare sighting in Red Deer


The chase on July 6 may have been typical for storm chasers, but the results were nonetheless magnificent.

As warm moist air settled in against the foothills, cooler air higher in the atmosphere wanted to fall. The result is a clash between opposing forces; a cap breaks like a shaken pop bottle and a storm forms. Our analysis suggested that Red Deer would be the best place to check it out, and we were right.

The storm took the form of a low precipitation supercell. LP supercells are the rarest thunderstorms on earth, but the rising topography of the foothills helps bring them on. We chasers call this "foothills magic." It produces the most beautiful rotating clouds, like sculpted pillars of marble on an ancient building, which we caught on video.

Vlog 1: An introduction to storm chasing in Alberta

When the blue prairie sky turns a deep grey and the wind whips into a fury, most people with sense take shelter. A darkening horizon is when Nevin deMilliano ('17 Bachelor of Business Administration) and his network of storm chasers spring into action.

The founder of Agricast, which provides custom weather forcasting to farmers, often posts videos of his weather-following adventures on Twitter. @PrairieChasers is home to deMilliano and several other storm chasers in Alberta and Saskatchewan.

This summer, deMilliano is sharing his love of the chase with techlifetoday. This is the first installment in a vlog series that, when it comes to weather, really cuts to the chase.


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