Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Storm Chaser...among other things

When I was younger, for various reasons, I decided I was NOT going to be a "housewife." This is not to say I thought housewives' were not valuable. They are probably the most valuable people in the world. They are also the least appreciated. From that perspective, as a young girl I decided it was not for me.

So I embarked on creating a life for me, defined by what I wanted to do, what I liked, and my own natural curiosity. Throw in a measure of "tomboy" and you get an unconventional life.

One of my fascinations has been earth sciences; volcanoes, earthquakes, rock hounding, and weather. In 1994-5, I trained with the National Weather Service to become a storm spotter; someone on the ground who reports back to the NWS live observations of a storm, before, during and after the event. This includes wind speed, hail size, rainfall amounts, and damage reports in severe storms. I started with just giving estimates, to having the equipment to give accurate, "measured" reports. I attend training each spring and even having the experience of 15 years plus, I still learn new things.

A couple years ago, I started attempting to capture my observations with a camera. I have occasionally captured lightning, but only so-so. Until this past weekend. On Sunday, my husband and I were driving around, "observing" the storms that devastated Milwaukee with 7+ inches of rain. There were funnel clouds sighted, and the potential for waterspouts. We drove 3 blocks to the lakefront (yeah, drove 3 blocks, but think about it - heavy rain was coming, along with high winds and hail? I wanted the protection of shelter nearby!) to watch the storm front pass through. No waterspouts. So we drove further north, closer to the storm, and after rescuing one of my petsitting clients (she accidently locked herself out of her home and I have a key) we headed to an open area. All the better to see funnel clouds, hail, and lightning.

Taking shots of lightning requires patience, patience, timing and pure dumb luck. All came together for me.

I got maybe two more "keepers" and then the lightning got too close. Once I snapped a pic, but the image seemed to bleed out of the camera into my hands, and that was way too close. It was just the after-image, but I took it as a hint to take cover. Shortly after, there was a loud crack of thunder and a bolt that seemed to strike right in front of the van. That's enough for me!
The foremost lesson in storm spotting/chasing that they teach, is to always be aware of where you are in relation to the storm, and to STAY SAFE! Translation: Better to live and chase another day, than to die and have your camera blow up in your hands when you're struck by lightning. Kind of spoils the picture if the memory card vaporizes.....
P.S. All images are copyrighted. Von De Bur-2010 Contact me if you'd like permission to use. Nominal compensation is appreciated. SkyWarn logo is copyrighted, contact them for permission to use -

1 comment:

Bernie said...

Wow, Linda, those lightning pictures are great!! Something I've always wanted to capture but haven't yet.
And you're right, my 'followers' list isn't updating. Glad you told me.