There’s something mesmerizing about the approach of a storm. During the summer in the upper Midwest we get waves of high humidity – the air is so filled with moisture it’s dense and thick. The humidity and heat build until they set off storms. Lately we seem to have weekly storms accompanied by thunder and lightning, hail, and strong winds.
There are so many unknowns with an approaching storm – will it be just rain, will it pass by quickly or stall overhead, will it create damage anywhere in its path, will it build and get worse or will it dissipate, and when will it be overhead. I find the anticipation before a storm moves through fascinating and beautiful. This storm was building for about a half-hour. The white thunderclouds at the far end of the lake stayed to the south as the darker clouds rolled over the lake. The wind quieted and the air was eerie with the stillness. Within ten minutes the rain started, big drops at first and then a downpour. And after another ten minutes the storm had moved out of the area, this time leaving only rain.
The storm brought wind, rain, and hail and it seemed to stop as quickly as it started. This had been the third or fourth storm to roll through in as many days. But as the dark clouds moved further east and the skies began to clear, there was a brilliant rainbow that arced across the sky and was reflected in the still lake surface below. This was our “reward” for getting through the storms, and with all the uncertainties that are in our day-to-day lives this was truly the brighter side.
High heat and humidity can only last for so long. Eventually the atmosphere needs to clear it all out. As the sunshine disappeared, the air stilled and the clouds moved in. There was just a line of light on the far shoreline, but the rest of the sky was filled with billowing clouds – grey and dark. Their reflection in the eerie calm of the lake seemed ominous. A few minutes later the rain started in big drops, the wind picked up, and the rain became steady giving us the much-needed moisture.
I hit the road this past weekend for a quick trip to the Kansas City area. It was a time for catching up with family and celebrating my niece’s high school graduation. We were even able to fit in an evening of pond fishing – the winds were calm, the air was warm, the sunset over the farmland was beautiful, and even the fishing was successful. I headed back home to Minnesota yesterday, leaving Kansas City in the morning after an early thunder-storm had passed. The sun was out and the temperature was rising, as was the humidity. I was watching dark and threatening clouds to the north, hoping they would move east before I got to that area. As I arrived in northern Iowa, the weather intensified to the north and east with large clouds blossoming on the horizon right along the front line. The radio station kept interrupting with severe weather and tornado warnings to the east and the south. When the interstate merged to one-lane and the cars started to back up, I took the first exit. This area of northern Iowa is filled with wind turbine farms, all working to harness the power of the winds that blow across these plains. Their height and power seemed to compliment the weather that was building in the area. My timing was perfect as I was west of this storm system, and my time photographing allowed me to miss the heavy downpours that were to the north. I managed to arrive home in between the storms, but with an appreciation of the power (and randomness) of Mother Nature.
Now that my wrist has healed I’m enjoying getting back on my bicycle. And with great summer riding weather I’m slowing working to build up my mileage. Yesterday dawned gray and cloudy with the promise of sunshine by late morning. A quick check of the doppler radar showed rain to the north, but not a problem. Off we headed, cycling on a route we’ve ridden many times before. As we neared our turn-around point we were confronted with ominous black clouds. We conferred and decided it best to turn around and head back….as quickly as possible. As luck would have it, the dark clouds were soon enveloping us, the wind was gusting from the right, and then from the left, and the rain was starting to come down. We knew of a couple of places we could go for protection and we pulled under the eaves of a maintenance and storage shed just as the rain cut loose. Nearby was a marsh filled with cattails. As they waved back and forth in the wind and rain we stayed huddled under the eaves watching the lightning, listening to the thunder, and watching the storm pass through. Once it seemed that the rain was beginning to let up we decided to get back on our bikes and ride the remainder of the way home. Within a half-mile of the house we found that the pavement was dry and the rain hadn’t made it that far south. Regardless of the weather (or perhaps because of the weather) we set new personal best speeds for our route and were only slightly soaked when we pulled into home.