Super-Charged Atmosphere

Friday, January 29, 2016


It was one of the most impressive lightning displays I had ever witnessed. And no wonder. It was part of an unusually early and powerful tornado outbreak which occurred on Saturday, April 9, 2011 in northwest Iowa. Our two-vehicle storm chase group was in our final half-hour of chasing just before 9:00 pm CDT. I was given a quick opportunity for our vehicle to pull off the road to capture the lightning display. The above image is actually a two-photograph combination, the first at 8:56 pm, the second a minute later. It looks northeast from 255th Street, just .13-mile east of US Highway 71, and about 2.5 miles south of Early, Iowa. In addition to the vivid lightning, the image also shows the road's illuminated shoulder at lower right; blurred trees at left--buffeted by strong RFD winds (moving right-to-left); and a portion of a mesocyclone at upper left. A tornado from this meso was on the ground just northwest of Early at this moment. A highway patrolman stopped and warily asked us what we were doing here before speeding off to the east (background). Shortly thereafter, we resumed the chase and had a dangerous close encounter with an EF2 wedge tornado around 9:10 pm as we entered the town of Nemaha, about seven miles to the northeast.

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Let It Storm? Let It Storm? Let It Storm?

Tuesday, December 29, 2015


This day on Wednesday, December 23, 2015 should have been a white snowy landscape in Iowa. Instead, it was 55 degrees F with a nearly identical dew point. Even more amazing was the fact that the Storm Prediction Center issued Tornado Watch 561 covering areas in three midwestern states just before 3:00 pm CST. The watch box's northern boundary stretched nearly to Cedar Rapids, Iowa.


Though no tornadoes would materialize in the Cedar Rapids area, an approaching thunderstorm (above) was seen in this image of the SW sky from Bowman Woods Park at 3:33 pm.


At 3:35 pm, a bank of convective clouds, more indicative of spring or summer, stretched across the northwest sky, seen here behind Bowman Woods Elementary School.


The thunderstorm is almost upon this location on Brentwood Drive NE at 4:43 pm. Christmas decorations in the foreground of the image give the moment an almost surreal appearance.


A testament to the abnormal weather conditions of the month and day is this image of my Vantage Vue weather station at 4:08 pm. 22 confirmed tornadoes in five states--two rated at EF3--would drop from this system. A Particularly Dangerous Situation (PDS), infrequent even in the springtime, was issued by the SPC for parts of Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee during the event. Nikon D5000 DSLR camera.

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Dazzling In Drizzle

Tuesday, December 22, 2015




These three images, all from the vicinity of Bowman Lane and Bowman Court NE in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, were shot from 7:03-7:06 pm CST, Monday, December 21, 2015. A light, falling drizzle only slightly subdued the dazzle of the neighborhood Christmas lights displayed there. A three exposures were just over a second long at f/13, 2500 ISO and 18mm focal length. Nikon D5000 DSLR camera.

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Brilliance In A Bleak Winter Sky

Thursday, December 10, 2015


In an otherwise bleak "hazy shade of winter" sky on Wednesday evening, December 9, 2015, a cloud opening in the west allowed a brief, but brilliant sunset color to pour through. These two images were captured from Bowman Woods Park in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The image above was shot at 4:42 pm, CST.


This photo, a three-image stitch, was captured at 4:43 pm. A minute or so later, the cloud aperture closed and with it the splash of color. Actual sunset time was 4:35 pm. Nikon D5000 DSLR camera.

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Dusting The Creekside

Tuesday, November 24, 2015




Dry Run Creek in Boyson Park, near the Marion and Cedar Rapids, Iowa boundary, was the setting for these three images. All three look west. Snow had been falling for nearly a half-hour and was beginning to dust solid objects surrounding the creek. When the snow system had exited the next day, some seven inches fell here. Capture times: Bottom image, 4:03 pm CST, Friday, November 20, 2015; Middle image, 4:06 pm; and top image, 4:07 pm. Nikon D5000 DSLR camera.

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Before The Snow Flew…And During

Monday, November 23, 2015


This image, a two-photo stitch, looks north from Alburnett Road, about .8-mile north of County Home Road, and north of Marion, Iowa at 3:26 pm, Friday, November 20, 2015. Miniature flakes of snow had just begun to filter downward as the first significant snowstorm of the season approached.


32 minutes later, this was the scene at Boyson Park near the border of Marion and Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Heavier snow was now falling, and when the system vacated the area the next morning, some 7 inches of snow had covered the ground. Air temperature for the top image was 33 degrees F. By 10:50 pm the following day (November 21), air temperature was 7 degrees F. Nikon D5000 DSLR camera.

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November Severe Weather

Thursday, November 12, 2015


With the SPC forecasting severe weather potential for southern Iowa and northern Missouri two days in advance, storm initiation finally began in western Iowa before noon on Wednesday, November 11, 2015. Tornado Watch 535 was issued for much of eastern Iowa at 3:20 pm CST. A mix of strong CAPE, wind shear and warm air contributed to this unusual November severe event. The above image looks west at an advancing line of severe storms at 4:54 pm from Nutmeg Avenue at 220th Street (County Road G36), one mile east of Highway 1 in central Washington County, Iowa.


As the storm passed overhead, torrents of blinding rain made driving on 220th Street extremely difficult. We witnessed an SUV drive slowly off the road and into the ditch to the left, miraculously recover and pull back up to the road surface, only to slowly go off and into the ditch at right. A small parking oasis just before Highway 1 allowed us to pull into it to wait out the rain and hail. I could not see the hail clearly in the dark, but judging by the impacts on our vehicle estimated it to be penny size. The middle image--a video frame capture--shows a parked dump truck at 5:02 pm, which served as sort of a directional beacon which drew us to the safety of the fortuitous parking area.


This radar image graphic shows our position near the time of the middle image. Small hail cores can be seen in the area, colored in lavender. The early darkness of November made photographing the storm a challenge. Nikon D5000 DSLR camera.

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