This week a weather rarity happened here in Wisconsin. Tropical Storm Cristobal made it’s way north from the Gulf of Mexico where it dumped a lot of rain and brought along very high winds on New Orleans. For only the fourth time in recorded weather history has a named storm come this far north. Some areas of the state had winds up to 50 MPH and between 1.5 to 2.5 inches of rain fell causing some localized flooding.
My photo archives contain a number of photos of storms, many of them from my home state of North Dakota. We usually visit in the summer when the hot weather brings in those big, dark clouds that usually provide some much needed rain for the semi arid plains but can also produce hail and tornados. One caution about photographing inclement weather, have an exit plan. These storms are unpredictable and can morph in a short time. Also watch for lightening, there’s been a time or two when I realized I was the highest object on the prairie so sought shelter in my vehicle. Now on to this week’s photos.
This huge storm went just north of my location in western North Dakota, the sun was shining on the Badlands landscape in the foreground and the dark clouds loomed in the background.
This ominous scene occurred in Medora, North Dakota as we were entering the Theodore Roosevelt National Park. The air had a “feel” about it, something bad was going to happen someplace, like hail, high winds or a funnel cloud. We had tickets to the Medora Musical for later that evening and the weather system seemed to pass. However, less than half way through the performance, another system moved in and the show ended at the outdoor amphitheater. We made it to our car just before rain came pouring down.
This photo was taken near where my Traveling Partner was raised. This now closed country church (Greek Orthodox, I believe) with the cemetery in the background served as an anchor for this photo of the low dark clouds that likely released a lot of rain someplace. By the way, this taken was in the late afternoon with at least a few more hours of sunlight.
These next two photos are favorites of mine. Before and after bad weather, cows will often bunch up along a fence line (because it stops them!) as a way to protect themselves. Like a lot of animals, they can smell and detect the change in the ozone before the rain falls. When there isn’t imminent weather, the bunching is likely due to a fly infestation. Standing closer “protects” at least a small part of their body from being bitten by flies. Most cattle producers use some method of controlling flies such as cattle rubs with insecticidal dust, sprays, pour ons, or fly tags. A heavy fly population can adversely affect production.
The next three photos were taken of the same storm system a few hours apart and in different locations.Most of the photos that day were taken at the second and third stops. I was parked on a high spot along a gravel road watching the storm many miles to the south. I saw a pickup truck coming down the road from about two miles away raising a dust trail. When the truck stopped, I saw that it was a ranch family that had been in town for supplies. They asked if I needed help as I stood beside my truck with the camera on a tripod. After a few minutes of polite conversation, they wished me well and I thanked them for checking to see if I was in trouble and needed help. No I was just taking photos and watching the big storm move through. They probably thought it weird that this person with out of state plates was standing out in the middle of nowhere watching a storm. I’m guessing they shook their heads at “city folks” as they drove away!
This black and white panorama was taken in the late afternoon as a storm was moving in from the west. There was some rain deposited on the land by these clouds but never enough on the prairies of western North Dakota.
The video and photo below were taken in 2014 as we were traveling west across North Dakota the Friday before Memorial Day. We could see the storm coming from a long way off, it was filling the western sky with no breaks north to south. At one point, my Traveling Partner asked me “how many miles until we meet storm,” I replied “ten to twelve miles.” Pretty close, the storm hit us head on four or five miles east of Jamestown, first the heavy rain then came the hail. Cars started slowing down then pulling to the side of I-94, we were towing a 27 foot travel trailer so had to find a place where we could safely pull over. The video documents the hail that pounded us for a couple of minutes.
After it passed, we carefully pulled back onto the highway, after a few minutes another wave of rain and hail hit us from the south, the storm had circled around to make sure no surface was untouched! We didn’t pull off this time as it didn’t last as long as the first wave. About five or six miles up the road was a rest area where stopped to survey the damage and I the snapped the photo of the storm moving to the east. The front, top and drivers side of our tow vehicle was pot marked with dents made by the hail, it cost my insurance company over $4000 for repairs. The trailer had a fiberglass skin that wasn’t damaged but there was a beaded trim that was heavily dented and broken so had to be replaced, another $1800. What we didn’t know until we stopped at a campground for the night, the three clear plastic skylights were all cracked and broken. With the help of the campground host, I got on top of the trailer to duct tape garbage bags over the sky lights as there was more bad weather predicted. The next morning, I was the first customer of the day at an RV dealer we passed on the way to the campground. Fortunately, they had replacements and a tech on duty that Saturday. So all ended well but it’s an experience we won’t soon forget!
An update on our storm this week: we had nearly two inches of rain, heavy at times, along with winds in the 20-30 MPH range. In our neighborhood, there were a few tree branches knock down, a pretty good sized one down the street.
Next week, more photos from the archives as we continue to limit our exposure to the virus.
Until then, happy virtual travels!