Monday, July 23, 2012

Strike Me!

July has been one hot day after another. It's been meltingly hot in a region where air conditioners are few and far between, but at least it's been good for the garden. Caleb has heard me say that so many times he can finish my sentence before I start it!

The heat means a lot of things....uncomfortable working conditions, hot children begging for swimming trips, an increase in fan and Popsicle sales. But most of all, in Prairie Pothole country, it means thunderstorms. Lots of them.

Potholes are the little ponds of water that dot the rolling hills of North Dakota and eastern Montana. Minnesota may be the land of 10,000 lakes, but we're the land of 10,000,000 puddles. All that water sits around with nothing better to do than evaporate and feed huge thunderstorms that roll through later in the afternoon. We've had some nice ones, which has fueled another summer activity...obsessively trying to get lightning shots.

The one time I had my best chance of getting some good pictures I was much too busy trying to make it to safety to care. We were in the middle of a severe thunderstorm warning, with lots of cloud-to-ground lightning when I decided I'd better get back out to my house. The storm seemed to have moved on a little, and I was worried one of my cats might be trapped out on my roof (she does that sometimes).

Stupid move.

Once I left the shelter of town, I was able to observe that I was ringed by VERY active cells which were having lightning strikes several times a minute. Storms aren't so bad in town, but out in the country you quickly become aware that YOU are the tallest thing out there. In fact, one long stretch of the road doesn't even have power poles as decoys. Just you and your little tin foil van with a big "Strike Me" sign taped to the back of it.

That was a storm, but until I got to the shelter of my house there was no way I was stopping to take pictures. However, once I got there, out came the camera! Oh, and the cat was snug inside the house. She's not stupid!

I wasn't about to leave the house, so I had to put up with water drops on the windows and ugly power poles smack in the middle of my shot, but that was a small price to pay to keep from being fricasseed. And it was this storm that finally gave me my first "good" lightning picture. This was taken as another cell rolled in from the south. In about a minute my view was completely obscured as it dumped a waterfall of rain on us, but for a moment I had a good shot.

The weather service was warning of quarter-sized hail, but I didn't think we'd end up with anything the size of quarters.

I was sort of right.

Our hail was even bigger than a quarter. Thankfully it didn't hail much or our garden might have suffered just a bit! 

We've had lots more storms since then, some big, some small. A good thunderstorm can be so refreshing after a sticky-hot day, but I do like it when they behave respectably. Nothing worse than a pushy thunderstorm with no social boundaries.

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