It was extremely hot on June 23, 2016. In southeastern Brabant and bordering northern Limburg, the mercury fluctuates around 35 degrees in the afternoon. Over the two provinces, a low pressure area from the United Kingdom and a high pressure area from the Baltic States converge. Immense rumbling cumulus clouds arise in record time. They stick together in a monstrous swirling cloud, a sort of tornado On steroids. It’s getting dark, hurricanes are hitting the open windows and rain is flooding the streets.
“It’s the perfect cocktail for a supercell,” says storm chaser Gijs de Reijke (36). The geography teacher – big build, ring beard, hip V-neck shirt – leaves through his self-written handbook on weather photography during a meeting he will present today. “It’s him.”
A supercell is the most severe type of thunderstorm. It is a rotating shower formed by warm, moist air, while cold air also flows down. When a lot of air rushes around such a supercell, a vertical funnel forms, a giant swirling cloud. Each supercell has a 10 percent chance of developing into a hurricane. When most people run screaming into their homes in bad weather, de Reike goes outside. “Those are the moments a storm chaser lives for,” he quips. De Reyke looks at weather maps, models and forecasts online daily with the same devotion as a bishop reads the Bible. “Along with other strange people, I go out ten times a year. About thirty times in a good year. We drive each other crazy in the utility groups. Who can get free? When are we going? Those are the days when tension runs through my body.
‘The storms are terrible, so there’s snow, but nothing like a thunderstorm. Hail, wind and lightning, everything is in it
Back to 2016. De Reicke has been watching his trusty weather sites for three days. Along with two friends – storm chasing is preferably done with three people: a driver, navigator and weather map reader – he sends after the disaster in his car. The storm causes extensive damage, mainly due to large hail. Some are 7 to 10 centimeters in diameter – the largest seen in the Netherlands in the past 25 years. “Entrepreneurs, such as greenhouse farmers, suffered a lot of damage. Of course there was a lot of rot, but I fully enjoy such rains.
Then, after three hours of driving and a crazy ride through highways, villages and country lanes, the trio ends up in a perfect photo location. In one field, they take an impressive photo of a supercell from miles away. “When such a photo is successful, I cry with joy. If my car gets hailed, I see it as a trophy. Cars that look like Poffertjes Pan still drive around the area.
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