You ever see those video clips of the nerdy dudes chasing tornadoes? Guys wearing glasses with giant frames, 80s haircuts, wearing acid washed jeans or too-short shorts that aren’t hiding enough of their too-white legs?
Okay, not exactly. I’m not a professional storm chaser, and I dress a little differently, and I tan easily. But I do have a certificate issued by the National Weather Service demonstrating that I took a severe storm chasing class taught by them. I can tell you what a mesocyclone is. Inflow and outflow and RFD (rear flank downdraft). I know all that stuff. And by the way, “Twister” was complete bullshit. Cows don’t float, even in Oklahoma.
Anyway, I’ve been out twice this year. Both times the storms I picked were intensifying until I began photographing them. Then they went kaput. Which is great for anyone that might have been in their paths, but which sucks for me, since the only tornado I’ve seen was wrapped in rain and thus not seen by me, even though I was less than a mile away. The first time this year I drove through a rain shaft so heavy that I could barely see fifty yards in front of me. I watched a wall cloud pass almost overhead. I saw dust being stirred up by a storm that was rotating, but didn’t pull that rotation tight enough to form a funnel.
This past Tuesday was my second time, and I shot some video of a large wall cloud that passed right over downtown Tulsa. I shot it from the parking lot of In the Raw, one of our sushi restaurants, which sits on a hill and looks across the city. Toward the end of the video you can see what might be a small funnel, but which also could just be a funnel-shaped cloud that isn’t rotating. It was beneath the wall cloud, but I was too far away to know for sure. It’s kind of ominous-looking to see this large wall cloud hanging over the city, but the real bonus of the two-minute video is at the very end.
It was a few hours later, and I was at my computer, writing, when I heard a loud clap of thunder outside. So I went to the front door with my camcorder (which is old and sucks). There is a huge tree across the street from my house, and I’ve always wanted to capture it being hit by lightning on video. So I’m standing there in the dark, pointing the camera across the street, when a bolt of lightning streaks down and nearly blinds me. It was burned into my retina for like two minutes afterwards. I don’t know what the bolt hit, because it wasn’t the tree. And stupid me, I didn’t realize the damn camera was still zoomed from the funnel/non-funnel cloud. So the bolt was just out of frame, which disappointed me to no end. Amateur! Loser!
But then last night I watched the video in super slow motion, and I saw something the video at regular speed failed to see. Two branches of the lightning passed IN FRONT of the tree, which is only like fifty yards away from me. Even though the main bolt was a million times brighter, it’s still cool to see these little stragglers. I froze the one frame so you can see it better. Check it out!
Have a great weekend,