Sunday, August 14, 2011

August 13th Incredible Sky

Another day, another slight risk for severe weather in the region. Would it be another typical 2011 bust in this area, or would we have a repeat of Monday evening? I had the luxury of a lazy Saturday to keep an eye on the sky (or radar, in this case) as numerous thunderstorms developed to the west and north and moved toward the area. One little cluster looked to be developing into a small line segment as it approached the area, so with the dry conditions we've experienced in this region I hoped perhaps we'd get some dust kicking up along the gust front. That was my vision upon leaving the house, anyway. My 16 year old brother, Wil has taken up an int in photography and often asks to come along on these little atmospheric adventures but is usually in the wrong place at the wrong time. A lot of non-chasers don't quite understand the difficulty in arranging someone else coming along at last second. When it's time to go, it's time to go, and I'm gone. Anyway, I knew well enough in advance that I'd be heading out locally and extended the offer. Once the storms were about 30 miles out, we headed off, both picking up a couple of fountain Cokes as I gassed up and headed out.

As the line approached, the storms quickly tanked and went downhill fast. What was left of an ugly shelf cloud quickly dissolved. Not sure whether the time lapse I shot of this will be interesting or just depressing. I told Wil that sometimes you just have to be patient, and the early portion of playing with a storm can often suck, and if you stick with it through the suck you are sometimes rewarded with some not so sucky scenes.

I dropped south of Philo ahead of an ugly (and not the good kind of ugly) shelf cloud. What was weird was how early the actual gust front winds slammed us and began kicking up a little bit of dust in the field outside the car. The shelf cloud was nowhere near us, and there was no real sign of the winds coming in advance. Not sure if this was the same situation that the were faced with at the Indiana State Fair last night with the same thunderstorm complex.

Still bummed about the lack of photogenic convection, but not wanting to head home yet, I dropped southeast toward, you guessed it, Block Illinois. I ventured to the same grain bin / barn on a hill location that I shot the star trails and Milky Way Galaxy a couple of weeks ago. That's when the day finally turned around.

A rain free (though we were anything BUT rain free at the time) base emerged to our southwest and a little tail cloud quickly developed from some scud and began racing to the southeast. Rapid fire cloud to ground lightning began slamming out of the updraft region. We were in heavy rain being driven by northwest winds that pelted the passenger side of my car. Like a true pro, my brother quickly scurried from the passenger seat to the back seat on the driver side so he could shoot the base of the storm while being shielded by the rain. We made note of the incredible lightning activity and how we hoped to time it just right to catch one of them in a photo. It had to be less than a minute later when another bolt flashed and we both let out a "AH!" as we both realized we had caught the same lightning bolt on film. This would be a lot less exciting if shooting lightning at night, but during the day when you consider that your camera shutter is open for only a fraction of a second, the difficulty in capturing a daytime lightning photo is largely luck based. To both have caught the same bolt was pretty gratifying and pretty awesome. We both high fived, and continued shooting before the storm overtook us.

During the core of the storm my car was rocked by 50 mph sustained winds, perhaps with a gust or two at severe levels as it took down some small branches in the trees up the road. At the rear of the storm some pea sized hail finally began falling. Hail seemed to rule the day as far as severe weather reports went, so I was beginning to wonder when it would show up.

The rest of the evening was pure sky bliss. The sun sank down toward the horizon, and the numerous updrafts in the region simply came alive. We saw several full double rainbows, and countless sunlit updrafts spitting out lightning and dropping hail across the fields.

High resolution flickr set:

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