October 30, 1996

After a wet and windy Tuesday, Wednesday afternoon proved to be most interesting weatherwise in the northern San Joaquin Valley.

As I was driving southbound on SR 99 out of Modesto at 1215 PST, a black Cb to my south immediately caught my attention. As the base came into view, I kept my eye on it in case anything interesting developed. When I was passing through Ceres (just SE of Modesto) at 1220, I noticed a suspicious looking dip in the cloud base. After watching this dip for a few seconds, I began to see that it was developing distinct point towards the ground. Knowing this was a funnel cloud, I knew I had to get pictures. But just my luck, today was one of the few days I didn't have my camera with me. That didn't matter, as I felt very fortunate to get an excellent view of the short, black funnel cloud south of Ceres and west of Keyes. The funnel appeared to dissipate around 1230, but upon closer inspection, I could see a thin white rope....the funnel was still dissipating! This rope stage was very brief and was over within moments.

When I got back to my house in Turlock at 1240, the cloud base which dropped the funnel was beyond the NW horizon. However, there appeared to be more action developing right over Turlock. A rotating cloud base developed no more than a mile to my north, and appeared to be ready to drop a funnel at any minute. While my eyes were fixated on this cloud base at 1255, I began hearing loud, pelting noises. HAIL! Over the next 25 minutes, icy stones up to 1/4 inch in diameter pelted the ground at varying intensities. At times the ground was covered with hail, but the stones weren't quite enough to accumulate. The hail ended at 1320, and the storm eventually moved to the NW and dissipated.

At 1430, new storms were popping up to my east, so I got in my car and headed in that general direction. My route took me east on Monte Vista Avenue past the town of Denair in eastern Stanislaus County, south on Route J9, then east on Route J17 into the Sierra Nevada Foothills in northeastern Merced County. When I was 15 miles north of Merced, I began encountering the effects of this storm. Moderate rain and 1/8 inch hail began to pelt my car. I couldn't see any lightning at this point, but I could hear sferics on the AM radio about 5 to 10 times per minute. I was able to hear quite a bit of thunder as well. Although the storm seemed ominous, it didn't appear as if it would produce much in the way of severe weather, so I turned around at the junction of Route J17 and SR 59 and headed home.

As alluded to in the opening paragraph, this storm has been quite a rain and wind producer as well. In advance of the front on Tuesday, winds gusted to 34 mph. Rain fell much of the night on Tuesday and into Wednesday morning, which helped boost our storm total to 1.59 inches and our month/season total to 1.83 inches.