India: Day 2
A beautiful morning in Mysore. We are all perched up on Chamundi Hill where we can see the entire city and the complete lack of storm clouds before us. It’s obvious to all that we’ll be driving a long way today if we even hope to catch a thunderstorm. We take consolation in the cheap baked goods we were able to buy this morning and the group of young boys who seem intent on teaching us cricket. Their cries of “good bowling man!” make us all laugh despite ourselves. They find it quite amusing that we are all driving around trying to find a tornado and no one is really able to explain to them why we would travel so far to see one. Another one of our drivers, Shwas, explains to the curious boys that while the US has more tornados it was India that was the scene of the most deadly. Somehow they all seem to take a certain amount of pride in that. Then it’s back into the vans for another day of driving.
We spend the next few hours talking about “low level jet”, “shear”, “inversions”, “thermal caps”, “baroclinic zone” and why our guide feels the need to drive between 80-90 miles an hour even though most of the roads look like they are something from a post-apocalyptic movie set. The thing about tornadoes is that so many things need to be aligned for development to occur. You can have 30 parameters in place and just one missing and boom you end up watching your bread-and-butter typical T-storm. Once again, after driving only 500 miles, we are able to climb out of the vans and take pictures of some lightning. We are headed towards Kolkata (Calcutta) now as there are some good weather conditions developing there.
Just when we had all about given up on seeing anything interesting … our mobile radar showed the line of T-storms developing faster and moving quicker than we anticipated. As we hurried towards Sikkim the storms to our to right and north developed an outflow boundary, aka a “gust front”. This occurs when strong storms develop a rapid down draft of cold air from as high as eight miles up. When this downdraft hits the ground it is forced to move horizontally ahead of the T-storm cell. This mini-front of cold air moves out as far as ten miles in front of the storm. Where we were it picked up the dry soil with its near hurricane force velocity and the front became a black, one thousand foot tall monster screaming towards us from the west. As John, a nice guy from Britain said ” It was like nuclear Armageddon”! The bright sky turned into a hellish blackness in seconds as the right side of our caravan was blasted by the ferocious front. Visibility went to 10 yards at best and we had to struggle to keep our vehicles on the road. Vegetation and loose dirt were pelting the vans but we could not afford to slow down.
For the next two hours we raced south in a tangential dance with the front. I figure we entered and exited the front six times and got some great photos. It was time to call it a day so we found the Indian equivalent of a Motel 6 for the night. Apparently we were supposed to have gotten some sort of paperwork to enter Sikkim that we didn’t get so in the morning there will be some waiting around while we get the right documentation.
Anyway, my thumb is becoming sore from typing on this small QWERTY keyboard so I will send out my next update tomorrow.