September 21, 2008 Western Nebraska Storms

Hey, watch where you're pointing that thing! I'm on my way to the NE panhandle(probably in it by now) and see this ahead of me. I'm like what the hell is that. Oh crap it's a tank! Saw some new hummers as well, one with a red cross thing on the side. At least I think that is what it was. They might have been those H2 or H3 or whatever. I wasn't paying that much attention. And I also saw a few camouflaged vehicles.

I'm now north of Bridgeport Nebraska. This storm wasn't doing too well until right now. It finally flared up on radar and took a hard right turn. I was like, thank you! Since it was about to split the two highways out there and meander across no-mans-land sandhills. It was quite annoying trying to beat it before it crossed this n-s highway. Freaking one lane road construction on a Sunday afternoon north of Sidney. Sunday. Sat there waiting for quite a while. It's soooooooooooo annoying to drive that far and have something like that come between you and a storm intercept, especially when that one intercept might be the only decent view you get of the thing.

Long curling gust front overhead. The storm went from going ene to se right now.

I'd guess there's a fair bit of hail up there. It had just shot up to 65-70 dbz on radar, if only briefly.

A bit of a lowering can be seen up there in the notch, right of that sign. It looked like it would go se and cross the highway se out of Bridgeport now, so back that way I went. I followed it east for a good while, from further away. Looked like an updraft popped up to its west and smacked it a little. This took it off its nice rightward turn and sent it eastward again....not good. So now it moved east, right between the highways out there, and my highway actually went more se than anything. Worse yet was it was no longer deviant. It looked ok for a while, then slowly went down hill. Game over.

So I drove east, planning to get a room in Ogallala, which I did. There were storms further east, but too far to bother for lightning. I was just about to go to sleep, around 10:30, when I looked out the bathroom window and saw a tower flicker just se of me. I then watched it some more, and nothing. Hmmmm. Then flicker again. Fine I thought, I'll go out. The funny thing was, I was only looking out the bathroom window because there were no shades in there. Just this odd glass textured so you couldn't see through it, just barely. I had found it odd and had to look out to see what was even out there. That was the only reason I even looked out. And that lone flicker happened at just the right time. It was still very inactive at that point, but was enough to alert me something was there. Had I not been looking out, I'd have went to sleep never knowing anything was going on or about to.

Storm under the stars se of Ogallala.

Make that two storms.

As the lightning with these faded some, I noticed a lot of activity to my sw and could soon hear the thunder from it. So I went back into the city to try for some close bolts.

The area of CGs moved just se of me. The damn wind and sprinkles were getting the best of me anyway. I was parked under and behind an overhang. Even so, the wind was blowing rain in my window.

I move back east a bit and shoot to the east as that area moved up more. There was a truck stop to the left. A lady can be seen standing over there. I thought she was watching the lightning, but her dog was going potty out there somewhere. Since he was moving he doesn't show up.

Probably a 3 minute exposure.

There were bolts in almost all directions now. The storms were pathetic, but those are often the best for cloud to ground bolts.

I screwed this up. I stopped down to F8 I think, which was too far for these bolts. I wanted a bunch of them and thought I had to stop down that far for a longer shutter. The picture just has the underexposed look to it. The streaks of light at the bottom are cars on I80.

I'm an idiot. I'm in the same spot I'd been in just east of town for much of this. I now had a good area of CGs to my nw, towards town. I had to shoot them under some powerlines, hence the panorama type crop. Why am I an idiot? You'll see.

This area had a lot of CGs for a long time. I even leave here and drive around trying to find a spot without powerlines above me(cropped out above the frame here), and without those powerlines you see further away in this shot. I wind up in two corn fields on what looked like roads, but ended right in corn. I end up back here. I'm shooting, these let up some, and I notice a tower flickering to the left of this area, further away. I thought, dang, I wish I could see that without the city haze/lights. So I then thought, hmm, what is there nw of this town I could shoot from. CRAP! The freaking big lake! Lake Mcconaughey. I quickly thought to myself, you idiot. All these bolts in the last two images, plus a bazillion others out of that storm, well....were probably landing in the lake or right next to it. It was now almost 2 a.m. but I drove to the lake anyway, for that flickering tower west of this dying stuff.

Well, all I could see as I drove there was my flickering tower to the nw. I set up for it, and bam, first shot this bolt comes out of something I didn't even know was there. Well, that was the last bolt out of that, and I know exactly what that was. That was the storm which had been producing all those bolts. The shots I could have gotten from right here had I been here sooner......sigh. That storm had just slowly moved right across the lake, as in from about where I'm at, or just left, and towards where it is now.

That is the storm that was flickering west of the other.

I remember this bout of lightning. Those all happened at the same time.

I have my canon 50 F1.8 on for these. I'm not terribly thrilled with my images from it. I used live view to try and get perfect focus, but it wasn't really meant to be manually focused. It's horribly touchy. It should have been set fine though. Some are just a bit soft. The color fringing off the lights thought, that was horrible. I may never use it again for lightning. It's just nice since it is so fast at F1.8.

Probably about a 3 minute exposure. Distant bolts love to be more red in color. They were actually more red colored than they look here.

Probably 10mm.

Arrrrgh, I'm so annoyed I blew that other storm by not being here sooner.

This is about all I saw on the following day, the 22nd. I drove to Gordon where I sat for 3 hours. I'm parked pointing down a gravel road. Some farm equipment comes up behind me, so I figure I can scoot over a hair more. He had plenty of room since I wasn't on the gravel to begin with, but stupid me thinks he needs more. As I turn the wheel and begin to move right, plunk! The front of my car goes down into a hole. The front fender was now touching the ground. They do not call the sandhills the sandhills for no reason. If you get off the road it's sand you'll be on. Just like a beach....sand. As soon as I felt it go down, I gave it some gas, but moved nowhere. Crap I thought. I get out and sure enough, it was sand I was on! Both back tires had already dug down into it. It's bad when I'm pointing down a decent hill too, and not going anywhere.

The picture above is after I'd dug out quite a bit of sand from ahead of that wheel. The only thing I had to dig with was my tire iron. I soon figured, it's sand, my hands will probably do just as good. They did, minus the freaking cockleburs! Just look at my tire, they were all over in the sand. Each time I'd step back into my car, more of them would clutter the floor board. Anyway, went round to each wheel and dug ahead of them. I only wanted to do this one time. I then took gravel from the road and put it ahead of both back tires where I'd dug in. Having a rear wheel drive car doesn't really help matters. There isn't even posi with the rear wheels. One slips, well that's the only one that will be spinning. Made it really hard to push that front wheel up and out of there. I sure wasn't going to back out of it, up hill either. I tried, but they wanted to dig into the sand more. I tried turning the front wheels back and forth but all that seemed to do was dig them in. At least I was on a hill. Once I dug enough ahead of the wheels I could at least get a decent run out of it. I'd probably had to been pulled or pushed out if I wasn't.

The storms I was waiting on fired and they sucked. I opted for one back to the south, but if I chose to go after it, I'd be without data for the next 55 miles. It was about another 55 miles further south than that too. It was a long ways off. I'd driven up the highway south of Gordon when I came up here. Some of the highways out there are rural to the extreme. It's 55 miles to the next town and no highway options off of it. I watched my miles on the way north and it was 23 miles before I finally saw a car go south. So anyway, I knew just how remote this road was and I could get south rather fast if I wanted to. Not just that, but it might be fun racing south on this thing. I'll just say, it's strange to slow to 80-85 and it feel like you are barely moving. What was even more strange about that, was I'd do that in some of the corners. In one sense it did feel like you were hardly moving. In another it didn't feel like you were terribly in control at times on the corners. Just a funny and strange contrast. Like I'm "barely" moving, but it's still too fast for the corner. It was really fun though. Of course the storm died in the short amount of time that 55 miles took. And of course the one west of Gordon near Chadron was doing better, at least severe. As fun as that highway was, I wasn't in the mood to drive it again. So I drove east and didn't stop till Broken Bow, where I got a room.