Returning from a storm interception last night (June 10) and watching the sky from a red traffic signal, I saw a brilliant rainbow glowing against the dark background of clouds. The receding severe thunderstorm was rolling off to the east and the late evening sun was shining through clearing skies in the west. I hoped I could reach Medina’s Public Square before the rainbow faded, since there was the possibility of shooting landmark buildings with a rainbow above. I parked and trotted with my camera across the Square’s green and in light rain, with occasional cloud-crawling lightning overhead, I found my spot. That late sunshine was lighting the bright red top of the city’s old Town Hall and Engine House, dark sky in the background, and — yes! — that brilliant rainbow with a companion arc making the picture. I stood there for a while, shooting the rapidly changing lighting and rainbow intensity and when the sun went away, so did I. I’m very pleased with the resulting picture, which The Medina Gazette published today (at unfortunately low resolution), and I hope it brought a smile to many people who saw it.
It’s “shelfie” season: the time of year when springtime convective weather generates strong thunderstorms and picture-worthy shelf clouds. The popular term for shelf cloud photos, playing upon the term used for smart phone self-portraits or selfies, is shelfie.
May 10 was the first opportunity. I took up position and awaited the storm’s arrival in the parking lot of a public park. As the storm approached I could see only the separated top of the shelf above the treeline; that gave it the appearance of a wall of cloud (not a wall cloud) looming in the distance. The feature came closer and finally made visual separation from the trees and I knew I wasn’t about to be swept away!
The storm was silent, no thunder, until it drew closer and I could hear the roar of wind in the treetops. A 34 mph peak wind was plenty strong, however, and ushered in a steep temperature drop. I was glad to have a jacket with me.
Another photo-op presented itself with a squall line of severe thunderstorms on May 14. I thought I’d given myself enough time to reach a selected observation point in a city park in Lorain County but as I drove I realized I wouldn’t make it in time. So I bailed to a rural road and found a likely spot: a farmer’s access drive from the road to an wide-open field. I parked, got out of my car, and there it was! There was thunder and lightning with this one so I had some concern; nearby objects were better targets than me so I told myself I was okay. The shelf rolled over my location quickly. Intense rain arrived with 43 mph winds. And then it stopped. The rain and wind simply stopped. That was a very intense, concentrated line that moved along very quickly. A strange experience.
The night of April 7, 2020 looked interesting to me. An approaching squall line bearing very active thunderstorms was moving rapidly toward us, approaching from the west-northwest. I hoped the storms would provide me with excellent chances at lightning photography. I was mistaken.
Shortly after I recorded what would be my only decent lightning photo of the night, my phone went crazy with emergency alerts: TORNADO WARNING! The city’s tornado warning sirens sprang to life.
I grabbed the camera and fled indoors.
Once inside we opened and occupied the only space we deem safe against storms — an office closet occupied by file cabinets and shelved storage.
Timidly I peered through an office window ready at any second to duck back to the closet to avoid flying debris, a falling tree, watching for a tell-tale funnel cloud. The wind bent neighboring trees farther than I though they could stand. Rain pummeled the side of the house, the anemometer registered 49 MPH at peak. A distinctly-blue flash lit the horizon from the direction of downtown — a power flash!
I continued hearing the roaring sound as it changed focus from northwest, to west, to the south. I never saw a funnel cloud but I heard the storm’s passage: it was a localized source, likely the tornado.
Looking at the radar depiction of the severe-warned thunderstorms a distinctive and ominous shape emerged from the colorful pixels — a hook — the signature of tornado activity. I realized the thing had passed quite close by!
But how close?
We stayed awake for an hour or so, too excited to sleep. Winds, rain, and thunder continued for a while, and slowly abated.
Finally to bed.
The next day I took a walk to survey the damage. I made a number of photographs, relaying them to the National Weather Service along with street locations hoping to help in their damage survey.
Broken branches and fallen trees were common along a path about two blocks south of our house. Fortunately deciduous trees were not in leaf, helping them survive the winds. Evergreens, with their limbs full of greenery and shallow roots, took the brunt of the damage and inflicted most of the damage I saw.
A small yellow house with a green metal roof and brand-new siding was damaged when a large pine tree was uprooted and blown over. The tree lay broken across the little house, whose owners suffered loss of the improvements but also mourned the loss of their grand tree.
There was much more damage around town: the root balls of toppled trees pulled up sidewalks and gas lines, smashed into houses, blocked streets.
To no one’s surprise, the National Weather Service determined the cause of all the mayhem was a tornado: Category EF-1, 100 MPH winds, 100 yards maximum width. Along the nearly 12-mile path the storm damaged other homes, left a scoured path across a field, and tore the sheet metal roof from a large pole barn. Much damage reported. No lives lost.
How close was the tornado to us? Too close.
Our wanderings today took us close to my beloved Lake Erie shoreline. The sky near the horizon was dark but the lake reflected a mystical light of green-blue. A few minutes well-spent gazing upon the mystic lake waters.
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.
Ah! Stormy weather!
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.
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.
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!
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…
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.
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 well-defined line of storms was headed our way and looked like a good possibility for shelf cloud photos, so I headed out in the early evening to intercept the storm.
Things don’t always work out the way one expects and that may be especially true with weather. The rule proved true but I wasn’t terribly disappointed because of the way things worked out.
I could hear rumbles of thunder to the north and caught a glimpse of two lightning bolts: one from cloud to ground, the other within a gap in the clouds. But as the line of storms came nearer, the sun was sinking lower reducing the energy driving the weather. While the prospects of strong storm images dimmed, the developing sunset lit the roiling clouds in beautiful and unexpected ways.
Storm clouds moved and swirled as they passed across the western sky and rolled overhead, changing from minute to minute. No shelf cloud to be had but the show was wonderful.
All but ended, clouds closed in ending the evening’s show, the conclusion of a glorious sunset storm.