August 12, 1996

The inversion which had "capped" convection over the northern San Joaquin Valley over the weekend finally broke this morning, allowing for interesting weather to return to the area.....

At 0500 PDT this morning, I went outside to check the weather conditions. Radar had indicated light rain showers moving northwest towards Turlock throughout the predawn hours, so I went outside in hopes of seeing a few raindrops splatter on the ground. Instead, I was greeted to brilliant in-cloud (IC) and cloud-to-cloud (CC) lightning illuminating the southeastern sky. I watched the storm over the next few minutes to get an idea of movement and distance. I didn't hear any thunder, but additional IC and CC strikes illuminated a (high) cloud base, so I estimated the storm to be 30 mi to my ESE.

As the storm moved NW and daylight increased, I got a better view of the storm. At 0515, I saw a cloud-to-ground (CG) strike to the E. At this time it became apparent that I better capture this light show on video. Unfortunately, the lightning decreased in frequency (about one strike every two or three minutes) while I videotaped, but I managed to get a spectacular CC strike just before the battery ran out.

Amid all the excitement, I had not yet contacted the National Weather Service in Sacramento. Thunderstorms had not been in the forecast, so imagine their surprise when the spotter phone rang at 0530! The surprise in the forecaster's voice was apparent when I informed him that lightning had been occurring to my east for the past 30 minutes. Within 15 minutes, the forecast for Zone 5 was amended to include thunderstorms north of Fresno, mainly along the foothills.

As that storm continued to drift NW, a new storm went up almost directly over Turlock. This storm actually manage to drop large raindrops at my location from 0542 to 0545, but the rainfall was not enough to measure. During this light shower, thunder boomed from CG strikes about three to five miles to my SW. This storm proved to be brief, as all lightning from this storm had stopped by 0600.

Meanwhile, the first storm maintained its intensity well after sunrise as it moved to my NE. Between 0600 and 0700, I estimated that the storm produced anywhere between 80 and 100 CG strikes to my NE. This storm did not appear to be producing much rain, so I became concerned that numerous fires were being set in that area. Sure enough, there were. As I type, numerous fires continue to burn to my NE, mainly in the Sierra Nevada foothills.

The activity appears to be over for the day, but the heat continues. After this morning's minimum of 76F, the maximum reached 107F. Those temperatures set new records for the day (previous record high minimum/maximum 75F and 103F, both in 1992). The trace of rainfall tied a record originally set in 1991.