Belly of the beast

_C1_1502.JPGNature tonight put on a display like I’ve never seen.

A massive line of storms filled the northern horizon by sunset, and before long streaks of light criss-crossed its entire length. Bolts zapped outside of their cover every few seconds, while those hidden in the thunderheads snaked like immense glowing dragons through curtains of rain and billowing vapor, something impossible to capture with photos. Despite all this, the sky directly above was still clear. Moonlight highlighted the storm’s edge.

It would have been enough for me if it had stopped there.

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_C1_1331.JPGIt didn’t stop there. After a couple of hours the dragons reached Fayetteville, and the lightning only picked up the pace. Barely half a second passed without a paparazzi-like burst. The roar of a serious downpour got louder and louder as it approached and swept from one end of my apartment complex to the other. Some hail fell. Mostly it was flash after flash after flash. Usually I struggle to get enough decent shots of these bolts. This time they were just about overwhelming.

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_C1_1718.JPGThanks for the show, nature. And thank you for looking.

Dan

Thunder and Flood

IMG_1964No snow for the Ozarks this Christmas, just rain, rain, rain. As of this posting, between 6 inches and 10 inches have fallen almost without pause during the past two days along a band from Oklahoma to Indiana, according to the National Weather Service; for some comparison, here in Fayetteville that’s about the typical amount during November and December combined. It’s not forecast to let up until late tomorrow, either. In the meantime, we have a lot of the image above: overflowing ditches and streams and rivers, sunken roads, flooded fields and golf courses, and constantly overcast skies.

The amount of water flowing around here is almost indescribable. White-water rapids cascade from every bluff and cliff, bridges are overrun and, whether it’s in a gentle shower or a thunderstorm, the rain keeps falling, channeled by northwest Arkansas’ hills into torrents of opaque brown water.

IMG_1973Take Devil’s Den State Park, for example. The photo above shows one camping area along Lee Creek, which at this point usually spreads out placidly into a little lake as it approaches a dam built by the Civilian Conservation Corps. Here’s what the dam usually looks like, as shown in a photo from April 2014:

_C1_4371Here’s what it looked like today (notice the turquoise metal spike for scale):

IMG_1980I almost wondered whether the dam was still there, the water poured over it so fast. The roar and spray drowned out anything softer than a yell. On the surrounding hillsides, newly created streams and waterfalls carved through the leaf-covered forest floor like threads of pearl through rust.

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IMG_2007We haven’t seen rain like this since May and June, when about a foot fell around here and led to flooding of its own (You might remember the photos of the inundated golf course). Wacky and dangerous weather has struck across the country, with record warmth and several deaths from tornadoes in the past few days. Stay safe out there, everybody. Turn around, don’t drown, the whole bit. It could take days for all of this water to calm down. Thank goodness this isn’t snow, and brace yourself: It’s supposed to drop below freezing tomorrow night.

Hope you had a good holiday! Thanks for looking.

Dan

Active Skies

IMG_0075sA thin, intense line of storms stretching from Texas to Illinois is on the way to northwest Arkansas, bringing our first real chance of severe weather. The thunder just started. It looks exciting out there! I hope it’s just the right amount of excitement, though.

IMG_0071sThe turmoil in the sky before storms always fascinates me. Two of my best examples are here and here — take a look, if you like. The turmoil typically comes before the flat, more menacing steel gray of the rain.

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Stay careful out there,

Dan