Epic Storms Photograph by Mitch Dobrowner
Lordsburg, New Mexico
Resembling a mushroom cloud, a monsoon thunderstorm drops a deluge on the desert. The base of this cloud may hang some two miles above the ground.
Regan, North Dakota
A dying tornado like this one is said to be in the "roping out" phase.
Near Guymon, Oklahoma
Most storms move fast. This one crept over a farming community for more than an hour, bristling with electricity. "No two storms are the same," says James LaDue, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service. "No two skies are either."
Near Clayton, New Mexico
It's not a hovering spaceship. It's a low-precipitation supercell—"one of the prettiest sights in the severe-weather world," says storm chaser Roger Hill. Photographer Mitch Dobrowner says they tracked this one 300 miles from the Texas Panhandle.
Born in a bruising supercell, a funnel cloud looms beyond a cornfield.
"I will never forget the sight of this monster hailstorm as it breached the hills right in front of us," says Dobrowner. "It came at us at about 40 miles an hour, raining golf-ball-size hail." After taking six shots, he and storm chaser Roger Hill dashed for their van when "it became obvious this was no ordinary storm." National Weather Service meteorologist James LaDue confirms that it was a supercell.
Mobridge, South Dakota
The striated layers of rotating cloud that surround an updraft are a supercell signature. But what captivated Dobrowner about this storm was something more primal and figurative. "It was like watching a monster in the dark," he remembers. "We weren't able to see it until a series of lightning bolts rained down. Then it was like watching a dragon in the night sky."
Lake Poinsett, South Dakota
Dobrowner and Hill were ready to give up on this supercell as they watched it weaken. But after "it pulsed up and began to show signs of cycling," says Dobrowner, they moved close to these fields, at one point getting within a hundred yards of a rotating, lowering cloud. The storm eventually passed. It "never did produce a tornado," says Hill, "but it certainly tried."
Buffalo, South Dakota
Once a violent supercell, this storm had begun to die when it changed form and surged back to life. Hill remembers it emitting a lot of hail and lightning that lasted well into the night. LaDue notes that from this point of view—a rare opportunity to glimpse the side of a supercell, rather than seeing it from below—much of the storm's anatomy is visible.
Mitch Dobrowner: Epic Storms
Advance Storm Clouds