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A blog that describes a journey into storm chasing in South Georgia. Come and join me on this fabulous trip into the life and passion of a storm chaser in South Georgia. Watch me as I spread my wings.
"Some are weatherwise; some are otherwise."
After a couple of "nasty" (frankly, I thought they were pretty cool) thunderstorms over the last couple of days in the Valdosta and Tallahassee areas, we had/still sort of have a really cool feature that was/is visible on satellite.
A mesoscale convective vortex (MCV) is a low-pressure center within an mesoscale convective system (MCS) that pulls winds into a circling pattern, or vortex. An MCV can take on a life of its own, persisting for up to 12 hours after its parent MCS has dissipated. This orphaned MCV will sometimes then become the seed of the next thunderstorm outbreak. WikipediaIn our case, the MCV is already losing much of it's structure, but it still has a swath of bands rotating around a less tightly compacted center, especially when you compare it with the deluge of storms over eastern Mexico as the remnants of Tropical Storm Dolly make their way inland and work at dissipating. We would look to a MCV area for upcoming thunderstorm development, similar to how we would expect thunderstorms with any other low pressure system.
Last night was quite a night for thunderstorm activity. We had a storm pulse up suddenly to our east and actually move over our house. Frequent cloud to cloud and cloud to ground lightning was popping all around us. As the storm moved to our west, it really got inflamed, and the lightning became constant. Suddenly, another cell initiated to our east, so we literally had it popping on either side of us.
With the frequency, I couldn't help but try my hand at shooting some.... yes, again. Realize that I do not have many good angles from my house. There is the west view, which has a line of VERY TALL trees about 100 yards in front of us. There is the north view with yet another line of very tall trees about the same distance away. The east view, where our shed and the neighbors house block my view and trees beyond that and then finally, the south view... house, tree. It's a storm chasers nightmare of home placement. Oh, how I would love to live on an open field with a wonderful view of all angles.
Clearly, I am not geographically placed well for shooting lightning from the abode, and until I really nail down my technique and get a remote for shooting, I am not venturing out to a field like some chasers I know (who get great shots, by the way). I am just not there yet.
As the storm was east, I scurried into my sunroom to shoot from there... through the opened screen door, which kept slamming shut on me, and the rain was pouring in and covering my camera... no good. As it moved west, I chased it to the front porch, but I couldn't really get any good bolts... the storm was immediately overhead and most was cloud to cloud lightning at this point.
When thunder roars, go indoors.
So... I went into my garage for the more open northward view. Technically, I was indoors... with a really large door open right beside me. I didn't get any shots and the storm had moved further west, so back to the porch I trudged. AND, I got one!!
|He fills his hands with lightning and commands it to strike its mark. Job 36:32|
Hurricane Cristobal, though a "fish storm" not directly impacting land, still has an impact. As storms churn off the coast, there can be substantial impacts on shore. In the case of Hurricane Cristobal, so far, I have seen reports of 4 deaths attributed to the rip currents caused by the low end, off-the-coast hurricane.
I'm sure, by now, you've had the opportunity to see images of the waves off the coast of California, spawned by Hurricane Marie, also a "fish storm". The waves have drawn surfers and spectators galore. Here is a link to an article with some pics, in case you've missed them. They were monstrous, raging waves.
Along the eastern seaboard, the impacts of Hurricane Cristobal have not been nearly as dramatic as the impacts of Hurricane Marie were on the western coast, but there are still impacts. They are impacts that are more subtle and thereby, I would argue, more dangerous. Powerful rip currents are stirred up when a hurricane spins off-shore.
As unsuspecting swimmers are grabbing onto their last days of summer, before school kicks off in the northeast, they are subjecting themselves to dangerous conditions in the ocean. Rip currents can grab a strong swimmer and take their life. The narrowness of the current makes it virtually invisible and incredibly dangerous. If for whatever reason you find yourself caught in a rip current, you are advised to swim parallel to the shore in order to escape it and then swim ashore. Sadly, you will likely not be successful if you try to swim directly out of it.Rip currentA rip current, commonly referred to simply as a rip, or by the misnomer "rip tide", is one specific kind of water current that can be found near beaches. It is a strong, localized, and rather narrow current of water. Wikipedia
Why don't storms scare me?
I don't really know. I can't say that it's my faith because I haven't always had faith, but I have always had a passion for weather. I know people who are terrified of weather (kind of like my brother under the bed hiding from the "lightling"). I know people who beg me to do something about the storms, make them go away.... ummm... I know I've got tremendous Dewvoid. I know people who pray the storms away... OK, I do actually get that.
Dewvoid: (noun) The absence of significant weather events within a close proximity of me... only cause I think significant weather is really cool.Perhaps there is an opportunity there to sell my services (storm stopping) to wedding planners and bar mitzvah coordinators. You want pretty weather for the event, just invite me, guaranteed sunshine! "Stopping severe weather in a single bound. It's a bird, it's a plane... no, it's Dewdrop."
We have surpassed the midpoint of the Atlantic Basin Hurricane Season, yet we are only on the 4th storm of this year's season. That means absolutely nothing regarding the potential for impact from storms this season.
It ain't over till it's over...
It only takes one. Hurricane Cristobal has reached hurricane strength just off the coast of the Bahamas, skirting the coast of that island paradise and disturbing the plans of vacationers and bumping into the funds that generates for residents.
Hurricane Cristobal does make the third named storm consecutively turned hurricane, starting out the season. What's kind of cool is that such an event hasn't happened in 22 years. That's right, back in 1992, the first 3 named storms were hurricanes. In fact, that year was also a slow season, without any real action until August, where Hurricane Andrew made his appearance... It only takes one.
Fortunately, for interests along the eastern sea-board, it looks like Cristobal is taking a turn to the northeast and not even Bermuda needs to really concern themselves with his movements, but you never know. We refer to Cristobal-type storms as "fish storms". I wonder what the fish think...
|Trajectory models for Hurricane Cristobal|
I have to admit, it is quite the conversation starter.
"YOU are a STORM CHASER!?!"
I think if I were geographically located in the plains somewhere, it would be a bit less shocking, but being in south Georgia, I get quite the reaction. I often joke that I am geographically misplaced.
"You mean, you actually go out looking for tornadoes?!"
Well. Sort of. I started back in 2006, shadowing a local storm chaser, learning everything I could about severe weather. I started this blog, and I started connecting with storm chasers throughout the United States. I made some great friendships in the process and learned so many tricks of the trade. I really have enjoyed getting to know people who share the same passion for weather as me. It's an interesting community, full of its own little soap opera-like drama. We have this thing in common though that causes us to converge.
I actually had a great opportunity to chase in the plains in 2007 with the Twister Sisters, Peg and Mel. We were actually shooting a storm chasing reality show, so I got an all expenses paid ride where we went out to chase a high risk, potentially dangerous situation... and missed the one tornado (a high risk with a total of two tornadoes that whole day) by about 20 minutes. We had just left the Badlands that June 7th. Talk about bummed. Leave it to the Dewvoid to kill a high risk day. I was actually jokingly threatened by local storm chasers to be shipped to Hawaii to keep from killing their storms. My bad.
I love weather. I love everything about it. I am drawn to it from deep within, and I don't really understand that. We actually discussed it on that same trip, at one point while driving somewhere between South Dakota and Iowa. What is it about storms that seems to lure us in like a moth to a flame? Are we just crazy?
Storms are destructive and unpredictable and DANGEROUS!!
Seriously, what is wrong with me that I would be interested in pursuing something that I could truly describe as deadly??
The easy answer... I don't really know.
Some locals here might eloquently say it like this...
"SHE AIN'T RIGHT."
But... I know that when I look at the sky as it churns angrily above me, I am mesmerized. I find myself almost lost in it, watching it as it dimples and dips and draws in moisture and climbs to amazing heights while it's rolling and swirling and blasting me with forceful winds and launching electrical strikes.
I am in awe.
I am mystified.
I am drawn to its striking beauty.
I am seeing something that is truly out of my control and completely in God's sovereign hands, and I love it.
I know, I know... I said I would be here more to write about things that mattered to me, to go a bit deeper and share a bit more, but then I think I thought too much about it. All of the sudden though, yesterday, at a women's event with the church, someone asked me a question that got my brain writing a post. It's been so long since that automatically happened that it caught me a bit off-guard.
She asked, "What got you so interested in weather?"
Pretty simple and benign question, but it stirred within me, reminiscing about the path that has brought me here, to this point, right now. In my early days, as a child, weather was always been something fascinating to me. As my brother hid under the bed, hiding from the "lightling", my silly self was planted on the front porch watching the beams of light penetrate the sky with a booming crash, my mother trying urgently to drag me out of harm's way. The wind has always felt like a caress to my face.
My mother tells a story of her walking home once in a storm with me. It came out of nowhere, and the wind was strong, so strong that it lifted me off my feet and she anchored me, much like a kite. I was only 2 years old, but that thrill ride must have been etched on my heart. I think it was probably that moment that the weather became a part of me.
Years later, Hurricane Gayle (1985) passed through my area, just west of us actually, but we lived on the coast so we expected some storm surge (people along the shore had actually been evacuated), but the winds were only high end tropical storm force where we were. I know now that it could have been worse... Our neighborhood had a bit of a hurricane party at one of the houses, and the kids were allowed to play outside in the street which ran perpendicular to the ocean (parenting at its best), literally about 5 tightly packed houses down from the raging sea. There I was, all of 10 years old, leaning into this pounding wind, letting it hold me, push me, surround me, rage against me. I was in love. The wind and I, we got close. That is such a rare joyful memory from my childhood.
Fast forward, just 4 years, to October 1, 1989, and there I was with a boy (ick), parked by a field watching the turmoiled sky, as it dimpled and fretted and lightning cracked and wind started to blast us. At the time I didn't realize that it was a powerfully rotating wall cloud (oops), about to drop an F-2 (that was prior to the development of the enhanced Fujita scale) right in front of us. He tired of sky watching (how is that even possible???), and we went to the video store on the opposite side of the field, where we were all quickly scurried into the center room, as said tornado breezed by the parking lot of the video store where we were hunkered down in the "adult movie room". The tornado itself just grazed the parking lot, throwing shopping carts around, as if they were rag-dolls.
I was encouraged by my new friend to do an exercise in writing that she learned about at a "She Speaks" conference. I haven't done it yet, but the exercise involves writing 3 pages as soon as I wake up in the morning, not worrying about format or grammar or spelling or anything, just writing. I am thinking that I will go ahead and try that. It's just that my morning time is so precious, but I have some emotional response to recent events that has not broken through, which I am anxious to get written in such a way that communicates what I am feeling about it. I guess that means that I agree with her that the best approach is to just start writing. I'll let you know how that goes. ~Dewdrop