Shelf Cloud Panorama
We have had a few days recently when heat and humidity-driven storms have roamed the region. On Tuesday, August 20 we saw a long line of powerful, even severe-warned, storms develop to our west. Though the line appeared to be moving at a leisurely rate, I arrived at one of my favorite observation sites with just enough time to set up before a broad shelf cloud appeared on the horizon.
The leading edge passed over my location and, as is expected with these things, heavy rain immediately followed and I retreated to my car. After a quick splash of intense rain, the precipitation stopped! I got back out of my car and shot a few photos of the areas about to be visited by the storm. One view in particular from behind the shelf cloud: from a spot spared rainfall was this view of the dark clouds overhead, curtains of intense rain drenching the area, and brighter skies being engulfed.
Here Comes the Rain
Ah! Stormy weather!
A Most Impressive Shelf Cloud
It surprised me. We were expecting rain and thunderstorms but the approaching weather looked disorganized and “wet” — that is, plenty of rain leading the way and blocking views of the storm clouds. Suddenly I got indications from observers to my west that something was cooking, so I fired up my radar access and saw a well-defined monster of a storm approaching. I grabbed a camera and headed out, knowing I couldn’t get far before meeting the storm.
Under the Shelf Cloud
Finally getting through town and out into the countryside, I saw on the horizon hints of the approaching line. I quickly located a farmer’s field access path and pulled off. I got there just in time to watch the shelf cloud develop, roll toward me, and pass overhead.
Deluge: The Rain Arrives
As the ominous clouds passed overhead, I knew to what to watch for: torrential rain! I strolled to my car as the wind began to rise, got in, and enjoyed the arrival of the downpour from dry, air conditioned comfort!
This was possibly the most impressive shelf cloud I’ve seen; bear in mind I don’t chase in the Great Plains. I nearly missed this one and, as it turns out, I grabbed the wrong camera — could have done with the wide-angle lens left behind!
Thanks to the unnamed property owner who drove over to see what I was doing and generously allowed me to stay put on her drive!
Shelf cloud photographed July 2, 2019 in central Medina County, Ohio. Note the area of heavy rain to the left, the “clear” area bearing strong winds to the right.
I love shooting shelf clouds — clouds that form a line or arc along the leading edge of a gust front in a thunderstorm. They are awe-inspiring, scary, to me they’re just beautiful in their power rugged symmetry. I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now (apologies to Joni Mitchell) and discovered something at least as impressive; clouds of chaotic shards and pieces, tumultuously flowing together as a mass. I saw this configuration with a severe thunderstorm that dropped a tornado a few weeks ago, and I saw it again today in another severe thunderstorm — after the shelf cloud passed. I still love photographing shelf clouds (called “shelfies”, a twist on self-portrait “selfies”) but…
Tumult. A chaotic storm cloud behind a shelf cloud.
StormLight — Storm clouds close in giving last light to a farmer’s field before rain began. Canon 6D MK-2 Image.
May and June bring stormy weather and stormy weather often means dramatic skies. The evening of June 1 saw strong storms moving across Northeastern Ohio and when I saw an outflow boundary showing up strong and clear on radar, I headed out to see what was happening. I had not driven very far when I reconsidered my original observing destination and headed for the nearest open area I could find. Sweeping toward me over the treeline was a very impressive line of cloud; the line was so long I quickly shot several images using my trusty iPhone SE with the idea in mind of creating a multi-panel panorama later.
Once the outflow boundary rolled over me, I continued my trip seeking the cleanest storm edge I could find; several appeared to be headed my way but the line of storms seemed to be changing direction. After a good bit of moving around, I decided to head to the Wellington area in Lorain County as my best chance at a storm intercept. I discovered a farmer’s field access drive off a rural road and waited, surrounded by open fields, for the weather to come my way. And I waited. And waited. While I waited I photographed the changing cloudscape and wound up with my favorite view of the day — the last light illuminating a field as stormy clouds closed in. A complex and brilliant bolt of persistent Cloud to ground lightning convinced me my time in the open was done. Not set up for lightning photography, I watched from inside the car for a bit and headed into rain and home.
Outflow from thunderstorms to the north pushed out this arc of clouds. Panorama assembled from multiple iPhone SE images.
A gust front rolls over open farm land ushering in a cold air mass and heavy rain.
On a visit to Northwest Ohio yesterday (May 30) I stepped outdoors, looked to the west and spied a beautiful sight… the ragged edge of a line of clouds in the distance.
I strolled out, beyond a treeline to get a better look and saw an impressive gust front running ahead of cold air rolling over the area! I quickly shot a series of photos of the scene using my iPhone but realized my big Canon DSLR camera was in the car. I quickly retrieved the Canon and returned to my vantage point.
Seeing how quickly the line was moving, I race-walked seeking a different view and shot a few more photos before rain drops warned me I’d better get to shelter.
Normally I drive miles to intercept phenomena such as this gust front but this time it came to me — a surprise but a convenience — saving me the trip!
A gust front rushes closer ushering in a cold air mass and heavy rain.
A severe thunderstorm passes to the south of a farm in rural Wayne County, Ohio as bright sunshine illuminates barn and field.
One good thing came from my extended storm chase that afternoon. While my hopes of spotting a powerful approaching storm were washed away by torrential rains, the drive home revealed the beautiful contrast between peaceful, sunlit farm scene and a threatening sky. — September 21, 2018
The thunderhead of a passing storm with mounds of mammatus clouds beneath.
So I went out chasing what promised to be a big, powerful thunderstorm about 30 miles away only to be greeted by a wall of water. I get home, have dinner, and discover I’m under a gigantic thunderhead with cirrus fringes and gobs of beautiful mammatus beneath all surrounded by a beautiful blue sky. Storm chaser Dorothy was right, “There’s no place like home.” — September 21, 2018
That’s not fog that car is headed towards — it’s a “wall of water — torrential rain about to descend upon your intrepid photographer ending his remote storm pursuit.