Dust Storm Chase Report for 6 January 2002
Given that my dust devil chase this year turned out to be so poor, then it was with great expectations that a cold front coming through might give me a possible dust storm. The forecast was for a maximum temperature of 40C with the front arriving late afternoon. As I was already chasing dust devils that day, I had nothing to lose by hanging around and waiting for the cool change to come through. Throughout the afternoon we had regular strong gusts of wind come through kicking up a lot of dust. Some I estimate were up around 60kph. This was not good for the formation of dust devils! Still, as I had company in the form of my brother David, we hung around in the 40 degree heat waiting and photographing the few weak dust devils that formed.
At around 4:30pm we saw quite a good dust devil off in the distance and thought we would try and drive to it with the possibility of getting some better footage. It took us over 10 minutes to get near it and I couldn't believe it had lasted so long. Of course as we stopped and got out of the car, it dissipated. (I still have the weather curse on me!).
There was still dust in the field though, so we waited on the off chance that it might reform. It of course didn't, but the dust was starting to increase as it looked like the front might be coming through. We just waited by the field and watched more and more dust getting picked up by the wind. It was quite strange really as we could see the dust was in the next field, but it was not moving towards us, just building in the same spot. I would have thought it would have been moving along ahead of the approaching front.
We watched it build for about 20 minutes taking quite a few photos and some video and it was fascinating to watch. By now we could tell it was the start of a dust storm and it started to move towards us as the cold front picked it up on the way through. It came quickly and we rushed to close the windows on the car (although it was already pretty dusty inside from the previous 4 days chasing dust devils). We, of course stayed out in it, and recorded the dust storm hitting. The wind was very strong and I had to hang onto the tripod to stop it falling over and it is a good heavy tripod. I did lose my hat though. Visibility was very poor and we had to yell to hear each other. We got some good footage though and jumped in the car to try and catch the front again. Driving through the dust storm was difficult and we had to stop more than once as we could not see more than 10 meters in front of the car. We were on dirt roads and our road options were limited, so I made the decision to head back to the highway so we might have a chance of catching the front again. This decision quickly paid off as we were soon motoring down the road and making good headway. We tracked alongside the front which gave us the opportunity to photograph its shape with it being made visible by the dust, and we followed it into town. We then had to leave it, as I had a dinner appointment with friends. After the previous disappointing days of chasing dust devils, the day finally ended on a high. My brother David (not a chaser) even had a great time. I must take him on a real storm chase sometime. I hope you enjoy the pics.