AI: Thunderstorms

Tim3P0 and I have house guests this weekend, and last night, in addition to The Dark Knight and Doctor Who, our entertainment included a really great storm. We even paused the good doc to shut off all the lights and watch the light show out the windows for awhile. I’ve always loved storms. It seems that there is something inexplicable in humans that draws us toward destruction. I don’t understand it, but I feel it very strongly. Yes, I am fully aware that it is ridiculous to become excited by a tornado siren, and idiotic to run outside looking for funnel clouds, yet I am unable to stop myself doing these things.

How do you feel about storms? Freaked out? Fascinated? Indifferent? This would also be a good time to share any good storm stories you might have.

The Afternoon Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Skepchick community. Look for it to appear daily at 3pm ET.

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  1. Personally, I love storms. Living in Arizona where we get only a handful of good storms per year, I am always fascinated to just sit and watch rain and lightning.

    I imagine if I lived in a place with more threatening storms, my opinion of them might not be so positive. But here, they’re a lovely break from an otherwise blistering sun.

  2. I too like storms, when I can sit inside and enjoy them. Lightning, torrential downpour, wind, it’s all a good show from inside. I do remember one windy winter night though, watching the reflection of the lamps get warped as the window panes flexed from the pressure of the wind. That was a bit much.

    Also a sheet of roofing tin flew through our tent camp during the night one summer.

    Not that expect this will be among the top 100 storm experiences once the commenting on this one comes to an end.

  3. The power of storms fascinates me. I always try to go out and look. That’s why I became a SkyWarn severe weather spotter. They taught me the difference between SLCs (scary looking clouds) and actual dangerous weather situations. So far, I’ve only been able to report 2″ hail to the weather service and haven’t seen any tornadoes in action yet.

  4. I grew up in Ontario, where the storms are pretty good. Not real earth-shakers, and nothing really dangerous, but pretty darn good.

    I’ve lived in British Columbia for 30 years now. We rarely get any kind of thunder and lightning storm, and when we do it’s very mild. I miss storms a lot.

    On a visit back to Ontario in ’03 I lucked out at my Mom’s and got to sit through a few hours of good old Ontario thunder and lightning. What a treat.

  5. I love thunderstorms. We get huge ones here. I live in one of the most active parts of tornado alley and my town ends up in a lot of documentaries about tornados. The thunder here is so loud that you can feel it. It shakes the walls and can break windows. The lighting is so bight that the street lights turn off becuase their sensor interprate it as daylight. The wind is so powerful that trampolines with the saftey cages get picked up and go sailing over the fences. When the storm starts I can feel my pulse quicken and all the endorphines in my brain release at the same time. I grow until I’m ten feet tall with massive treetrunk arms. I race the wind and outrun it. I out scream the thunder and the lighting dances to the tune that I whistle. I am the god of the storm.

  6. I love storms, as long as I feel I am in a place where I would be safe from serious harm. I love sitting in the garage and watching a big powerful storm come through. At some point I’d love to go on a storm chase, but that requires vacation time and money that I just don’t have.

  7. As long as there is no Tornado watch or warning associated with the thunder storm then I totally enjoy them. Until one hits a freaking transformer and I lose power for a week.

  8. We mostly only get thunderstorms and snowstorms here, not so much hurricanes and tornadoes (though we’ve actually had a few of the latter recently). I love lightning. Thunder is awesome, unless it’s keeping me from sleeping. I actually find a low roll in the distance to be kind of soothing.
    What does bother me, though, is heavy rains. You know, the kind that makes culverts overflow and the water come in around the windows and the lot next door turn into a lake. So, storms only bother me when they actually impact my property. Otherwise, I just sit back and enjoy the show.

    Plus, we have a sump pump and a generator, and plenty of food and water, lots of blankets and scarves and snow shovels and booze, so I’m not too worried.

  9. Ellsworth AFB, SD, 1985. We saw a very dark line of clouds coming from the west. Very common for the summer thunderstorms across the prairie.

    Hail began, and grew up to ping pong ball size. Then, the hail really began to accumulate. But the real damage began when the fist-sized hailstones began to fall. This hail storm was very localized, it only swept across half the base.

    In our half, there were no windows left on the windward side of the building. ALL the side and rear windows of the cars in the parking lot were reduced to little square crumbs of tempered glass. The bodies of the cars each looked like what two men could do with two ball peen hammers each and about twenty minutes of pounding time per car.

    No injuries, though.

    The model 500 desk telephone on my desk had a hailstone inside of it that had smashed through the case of that telephone. This was one of the old style of multiline desk telephones. You ever try to break one of those phones?

    One thing that I didn’t get replaced until a couple years ago was my copy of Asimov’s New Guide to Science that I had on my desk, which got soaked.

  10. Thunderstorms are amazing. I love to go out and watch the sheets of rain or hail. I also really like lightning. I was actually lucky enough to see a lightning strike a few weeks ago. We didn’t get to collect the fulgerite, but it was still neat to see the red fireball where it hit the ground.

    The only thing about storms that ever freaks me out is when the tornado sirens go off. I have been outside a few times when the clouds are rotating, and it’s kind of terrifying. But, other than that, thunderstorms are one of my favorite things to watch.

  11. I was living on Oahu when Iniki hit Kauai. Went to bed the night before comforted by news reports that contained nothing worse than a surf advisory.

    Woke up to my marine corp roommate in the full freak-out mode of early warning. Dragged us all out of bed and off to the supermarket. “Fan out! You – Water! You – protein! You – Starch! You – Fruit! Go! GO!”

    We ended up with water, bread, peanut butter, fruit and beer. Lots of beer. Then back home with cars all going the other way, to board up our windows and wake the rest of the block. The old lady next door had been up all night baking pineapple upside down cake.

    Our place was cinder block, so we had half the street in with us. Cramped, quiet, everyone listing to the storm rise, circled around the TV. The hurricane had changed course, Honolulu was safe but it was headed towards Kauai. The same footage of hurricane Andrew shown over and over.

    It passed over us gently but the winds were still strong enough to sing, a sympathetic vibration off the houses. Rain hitting tin roofs with the chattering of far off rifle fire.

    And beer. Which is how I (stupid haole) ended up outside listening to this symphony of wind and rain and odd noises that seem to come from everywhere at once. Green air, palms bowing and springing back up, sky close enough to touch, puddles forming inches off the ground from the water bouncing. (The oddest optical illusion I’ve ever seen).

    As the weather died down, survivor glee turned us into a block party. Laughing, beer can smashing, hugs from people who complained about our Friday night noise, cake for everyone, Eddie Grant on a cheap boombox, tinny against the wind still whooshing.

  12. I’m a born zonie, so I adore precipitation in all its forms and I don’t think I’ll ever stop, even if I live somewhere it rains every day – I don’t love the sun :P

    I love watching lightning from out back porch, but my very favourite thing to do is go out and play in the warm monsoon rain. This year’s monsoon was pretty poor, I was disappointed :(

    Best storm story would be when I went on Outward Bound a few years ago. One evening we were nearly to where we were going to set up camp and a storm blew up right on top of us. We all had to take our packs off and put them on the ground and sit on them so the rubber mats that were the passing against the hard ground would insulate us. The rain blew up so fast that several of us were still dressed for the nicer weather we’d had earlier. I vividly remember the legs of one girl who was in shorts turning purple, and I ended up with hypothermia and couldn’t stop shaking for nearly an hour after being installed in a tent and sleeping bag and hot food. The storm was incredible though – lightning so close there was no pause between the flash and the thunder, and the thunder was nearly deafening. Exhilarating and terrifying. And, yknow, REALLY FREAKING COLD because we were way up in the Rockies and there was still snow sitting around some places. (Hypothermia is so much not fun.)

  13. Oh, and I adore the sound of rain. Recently downloaded some nature sounds traccks and really like listening to the rain and thunder one when I can’t get a real storm. Interestingly, I tend to think of outside my house as being overcast and stormy when I’m listening to it despite knowing it’s not real rain, and am mildly surprised when I go out into the kitchen and see how bright and sunny it is.

  14. @Gabrielbrawley: we get some good ones around here, too. my parents forgot to flip their trampoline over before a storm once and it wound up blowing clear through the neighbor’s chain link fence. they found it a good hundred feet from where it started, mangled and destroyed.

  15. I love to watch thunderstorms. Can’t really get tornadoes where I live, mountains don’t allow it to happen. But it is a real sight watching a storm build up behind a range and then almost burst over it as if a damn were breaking. The only problem is that when ever one starts, I get tired. I sleep so good during a thunderstorm regardless of how loud it may get.

  16. I love love love a good thunderstorm. I’ve never been able to follow that “stay away from the windows” rule because it just fascinates me so much that, in the heat of the moment, getting struck would almost be worth it.

    …Now I sound insane… Back to weekending. *creeps away*

  17. I lived in Kansas City for awhile in the ’70’s. One night, the sirens went off–and when they sound the sirens there, they mean it. I turned on my NOAA radio, and it was a continuous stream of “…funnel sighted…funnel on ground …funnel sighted…” reports. So I thought, “Hmmm. Sounds serious. I better get to a safe place. That would be the southwest corner of my building.” Then I realized that my apartment was in the southwest basement corner of my building, my bedroom was in the southwest corner of the apartment, and my bed was in the southwest corner of the bedroom. So I rolled over and went back to sleep.
    Another time, the TV reported a squall line approaching. I went outside to watch, bringing along my copy of “Julius Caesar”, and read Act II: “In ranks and legions and right form of war, that did drizzle blood upon the Capitol” Eerie.

  18. I love storms. I live in the north-east tip of Scotland, and we get surprisingly few. The last good one was in 2000, when I was in nursery (Kindergarten). I got really scared and hid under the table and refused to come out. I rejoined the class after the promise of a snack of biscuits (cookies) and milk.

  19. Wow, we all love storms! ^_^ (except when they break things)
    Personally, I find them fascinating, considering the size of those huge clouds and the enourmous power each one contains. It is especially cool when the storms seem to be lined up in a thin line so that the area suddenly starts raining like waterfall, which after a few minutes, stops completely and the sky becomes sunny.

  20. I don’t have a problem with storms at all. Unless I get caught in one without a jacket. Or an umbrella. Or if they knock out my Internet connection.

    OK, I guess I have a few problems with storms. Still, the atmosphere is nice.

  21. Hard to enjoy thunderstorms when you have to get your 60 pound dog out of your lap, and try to convince him the world isn’t coming to an end.

  22. There’s only one way to enojy a thunderstorm: sitting on a porch with a roof over it, a beer, and someone you know who can spot lightning with you :)

  23. I’m a little overly paranoid about being struck by lightning but I still generally enjoy thunderstorms.

    When I was in Louisiana, though, there was this one storm that was so crazy that there was almost no pause between flashes of lightning. That scared me, I spent that night in my hallway away from the windows/pipes/outlets.

    Flying back from Vegas, we flew past a thunderstorm. It was incredibly cool to see the clouds light up in flashes and to see the cloud-to-cloud lightning.

  24. I love storms. I am currently in Colorado with a great bunch of MINI people. Last night we drove up to Mout Evans and there was a beutiful light show off in the distance, watched it for about an hour before it let up.

  25. Oddly, I like thunderstorms when we’re camping. Once we’re sure the tent is secure (no high winds or leaks) it’s really nice to relax in our sleeping bags listen to the rain come down. The lightning looks really interesting through the tent ceiling and rain flap.

  26. Before I can answer I have to get over the shock that you paused the doctor. That took willpower.

    I love storms. When I’m inside. Unfortunately, I’m a lifeguard currently and it’s been storming so much that I’ve inevitably been caught outside in a storm more than once. I know I’m in swim gear and all but I have my radio out and that stuff (as well as my reading material) gets soaked.
    There is something about the boom of a really good thunder clap that really appeals to me. I feel in my core and I smile.

  27. Love storms. I used to be a Certified SAWRS weather observer (aviation weather) and a Skywarn volunteer. Sadly, WV has very few really good ones like the Midwest US.

    I’ve seen a few hellacious storms, as I’m originally from IL and have lived in WI and MO, too. While we lived in MO, a tornado seriously damaged the town of Battlefield and wiped a few smaller towns right off the map. In Springfield (where we lived), the tornado skipped over the city. In doing so, it dumped an incredible amount of soil in our gutters (It literally filled them to overflowing) as the rain came down. It also dumped shredded insulation and house siding, pictures, mail, magazines, toys, a ceiling fan (which came down like a shot-down helicopter) and an unbelievable amount of another assorted shit…It looked like Home Depot had exploded. Some of the mail was still legible and the pictures were unharmed. They were actually returned to their rightful addressees!

    I also remember right after a tornado passage up near Rhinelander, WI, I found a single pine tree next to a road had been twisted from above into a shredded spiral. Just…the…one…tree. :-o The same supercell had paralleled Hwy 41 (near Appleton, WI) and twisted all the single-post billboards 90 degrees from the road, so they all faced out into farm fields. Now, that was actually funny to see…It went on for a few miles! :-D

    So, yeah. Storms are the best free entertainment we’re likely to see from Nature.

  28. Add another one to the storm lovers group. I live in Ohio and we definitely get our fair share of thunderstorms. I love to sit out in the garage with the door open and watch the rain and lightning when there’s a storm. I always have a small worry in the back of my mind though because our house has quite a few large trees close by. Luckily we haven’t had more than a large branch land on the house.

    My favorite storm story gave one of my cats a major fear of thunder/lightning. Our cat had a bed then which hung from the window sill, and it happened to be laying there watching the rain. Suddenly a bolt of lightning struck the tree right outside the window. It made this extremely loud boom which shook the whole house and sent that cat running for its life. Ever since then any time there’s any bit of thunder that cat will find a place to hide.

  29. I love storms. Especially thunderstorms. *Especially* severe thunderstorms with gusting, gale-force winds, hail, and possible tornado warnings. Growing up in Georgia, I suffered no shortage of any of these things. I grew up experiencing these things on a constant basis and came to consider them an important part of my life.

    One of the things I miss the most after my recent move to Oregon are thunderstorms. There are almost never thunderstorms here, and never severe ones. It’s rare to even see any real atmospheric development other than either cumulus clouds during the summer or just plain overcast during the winter. How boring! Oh well. You can’t have everything in life, and there are always trade-offs with all major decisions like moving and such.

  30. @Ali Marie: Fulgerite? I want to find some petrified lightning myself. I live on an island, and we get a lot of thunderstorms just off the coast with lightning strikes on/near the beach. One of these days I want to find one of these tube at least close to intact.

    Love watching the lightning out at sea as well…

  31. Rainstorms and thunder storms? Love ’em. Have sat in my car and watched a tornado pass overhead deliberately. Most beautiful sight I’ve managed to see in my life.

    Snowstorms, though? HATE HATE HATE HATE HATE. And of course, I moved to one of the few places in Southern California that gets snow. Oy.

  32. @bookitty: awesome story

    Glad to see so many modern nature lovers pouring out the love :)

    I tour frequently on motorcycles, recently having been to Alaska. Part of the allure to motorcycling that I try to increase awareness about is the fact that the rider is exposed to the elements, is in direct contact with them. Yes, I wear a helmet and lots of other safety gear, but being buffeted by sideways rain is an incredible feeling. It makes one appreciate the power that exists all around us.

    The nice thing about touring in the West is seeing a massive storm in its entirety off in the horizon and then wondering whether you’re going to cross paths with it or not. I love riding in the rain but I don’t know about lightning. While I enjoy watching it from a distance, dance from the sky, not sure if I’m fully protected from being struck.

    This one time (lol) when I was heading to Mexico, crossing near Big Bend NP in Texas, two huge dark clouds with lightning formed ahead on either side of the highway. I crossed them just as they were converging into one mega cloud. Just past them, I stopped to catch my breath and enjoy nature’s fury heading the other way in the bright after-rain sunshine.

  33. ::making laser noises:: Beew! Beew! Beew!

    Not everyone likes to be trapped inside with me for extended periods of time.

    ::begins death scene:: They got me! Oh what a world; what a world!

  34. Grew up in an active tornado alley, so I got pretty blase’ about them. A tornado watch wasn’t worth interrupting TV for, and a tornado warning meant it was time to go outside and look for funnels. In 25 years, never got personally affected by them.

    Then moved to Atlanta (which is not known for tornadoes) and one rips the roof right off our frakkin apartment at 1:30 in the morning.

    Took me awhile before I could sleep through a thunderstorm after that.

    Good times!

    Funny you should bring this up. I found the photos from that just a couple days ago.

  35. When I did field work, it was in the middle of high-plateau badlands. When the only thing between you and the golf-ball sized hail is a nylon tent? It’s a little difficult to be sanguine. (Though, okay, the geologist in me LOVED watching the clouds form, it was awesome.)

    Normally I’m cool with them (my white noise machine is set on “Thuderstorms”), though this weekend’s overnight storms (I’m in the upper Midwest) are freaking me out. I grew up on the east coast where you kinda knew your severe storms were tied to geomorphology and times of day (with the exception of hurricanes). In our house, you looked to the northwest between 2-6 in the summertime for the bad storms – the hot air rising over the Appalachians always did it’s thing then.

    So I don’t like this middle-of-the-night severe storm thing, especially since our closest storm alarm siren is currently broken. And we can get bad storms from almost any direction, which I’m only now getting used to – we’re where the storms swirl and there’s no mountains in the way to force the air into a shape or flow pattern.

  36. Any of you that has the problem that Chasosaur just described should go out TODAY to your local Radio Shack or similar store and buy a WeatherAlert radio. It will sound an alert whenever the NWS sends out a severe weather warning.

    I had one as well as a scanner that covered the Ham radio net in WI. In remote areas like the WI Northwoods, they organized the Hams with the Skywarn observers to get the word out to the more remote towns where the sirens might go unheard.

  37. Oh, I forgot a couple of things…

    I was surprised a number of years ago when I was walking my dog right before a nasty summer storm. He started whining and pulling me back home before doing his business. I looked in the direction we were heading and I saw something I thought I’d never see.

    A tornado hitting the beach this far north.

    It was a “tiny” one, but it took out a couple of houses on the beach. Never though I’d see one living this far from the Mason/Dixon line.

    The other thing was I had a girlfriend who was both frightened and turned on by thunderstorms. A very weird relationship that was…

  38. @Mully410:

    I too am a Skywarn spotter. It’s a great way to turn your obsession with weather into something useful. The Skywarn training classes are also a great way to get education on the most current, up-to-date information about severe weather, theory, etc.

    I’m a new spotter and I’ve not yet gotten my Amateur Radio license but that is coming soon. We had a nice storm in the area last night (the one that Carrie is talking about) and it did indeed create some tornadoes. Unfortunately (or, fortunately) in my part of town we didn’t even get any rain.

    So anyone who’s REALLY interested in storms, check Skywarn out.

  39. @QuestionAuthority:

    Any of you that has the problem that Chasosaur just described should go out TODAY to your local Radio Shack or similar store and buy a WeatherAlert radio. It will sound an alert whenever the NWS sends out a severe weather warning.

    My experience with those things has been similar to having a dog that barks at cars/pedestrians/squirrels/anything else moving outside. She would probably bark at a burglar too, but by that point you have long started ignoring her.

    Those damn alert radios would wake me up for a flash flood watch three counties away. I didn’t make it through a single tornado season before turning the damned thing off forever.

    Yes, I may miss the warning that saves my life, but if I am only sleeping in 30-minute bursts every time there’s a lightning strike near Dothan, GA, I will eventually envy the dead anyhow. Tornadoes kill, on average, about 3 people per year in this state, but there are probably three people per day killed in traffic accidents with sleepy drivers.

    It has been a few years, though. Have they improved the NWS alert system? Some way to geocode the receiver so you only get the alerts that will affect you?

  40. Upon futher review, it looks like if you get a weather radio with SAME technology, you can cut out a lot of the unrelated info. AND turn off watches.

    Oh, and you can turn off Amber alerts too. It didn’t occur to me that they would broadcast those things on the weather radio. Waking up at 3am to hear that there’s a nine-year-old in a beige sedan possibly heading to Florida would be… obscene-laden.

  41. Update: currently caught in the rain at my lifeguarding job. I have an umbrella and I need the hours plus there is no thunder so I’m wondering if I should close or not.
    So rain has cost me a lot of money this summer. Money I need for my nerdy habits. So it’s relative. I used to love the rain BECAUSE I would close the pool. Now I’m sick of the amount of rain for the same reason. A day off once in a while was nice when it used to be just a day here and there. Now it’s nearly every other day.

  42. The tornado producing hook passed right over our house in the northwestern suburbs last night. There is something exciting and electrifying about hiding in the basement while sirens go off. I’ve considered getting a ham radio license just to be eligible to become a sky watcher.

  43. I had always thought I was odd for loving thunderstorms. Glad to see that I am not alone.

    I grew up in the Tampa Bay area of Florida (the thunderstorm capital of America) and I learned to love storms. Nothing beats the adrenalin rush of the blinding flash followed by the deafening roar of a nearby lightning lightning strike. Another thing about thunderstorms in the Florida, is that they come mostly in the Summer. All through the hot day you can watch the puffy cumulus clouds building up into a huge thunderhead, and then in the afternoon a sudden cool wind blows in from under the thunderhead and the fireworks start. It’s really quite awe inspiring. And then after the storm is over (they rarely last more than an hour)… that wonderful earthy smell…and the steam coming off of the streets. It’s wonderful.

  44. I love storms.

    My biggest disappointment about living in California is the rarity of storms. We have a few weeks of ongoing dismal rain, but no lightning and no thunder.

    I spent a few months back in Australia earlier this year and I was surprised to recall how tropical the weather is. It’s nasty and humid, and then there’s great relief with a ball-busting storm. I’ve seen a similar climate here in places like New Orleans and Miami.

    I miss falling asleep to the sound of rain in summer, and witnessing a powerful storm.

  45. As a habitual hiker, thunderstorms while inside a house or car = awesome; thunderstorms while on the side of a mountain = wtf am I here now????

    Oh, and as for thunderstorms on a sailboat… um,… the mast is made of aluminum, right….?

  46. Arizona desert native here, which means I am familiar with thunderstorms, specifically monsoons. Last year we had a doozy and it even hit central phoenix, where I live now.

    This year’s monsoon sucked, though. :( Very disappointing. Oh well.

    The storms haven’t been like when I was younger, living in the middle of the desert. I still dream about the clouds — it’s clear one moment, and the next the huge, dark clouds are rolling in.

    We can get some CRAZY awesome lightning storms, though.

    Thunderstorms are AWESOME!

  47. @marilove: This year’s monsoon has indeed been decidedly subpar :( I’m down in Tucson. I’m pissed because I ended up being out of town for monsoon season the last few years and now this is my last year here before MOVING, and monsoon decides to be lame. D:

  48. @phlebas:

    I don’t think they offer geocoding radios, unfortunately. But for me, they wouldn’t make a difference. I’m in between two regions, and weather can come from either.

    And yes, I’d have the same problem – we get blanket watches for several counties (though the warnings have gotten more specific, which I love). For me, though, when I know this stuff is coming, I stay up anyway so I can see what’s coming and from where. I can safely leave the NWS radio in our “safe” room for storms.

  49. I love them. I grew up in Mississippi, and sometimes it would storm for what seemed like days. I’ve since moved to Colorado, and here we’re lucky to get one that lasts an hour.

  50. I absolutely love thunderstorms! I love the rhythmic sound of the rain beating on the roof/trees/windows. I love the awesome power of lightning and thunder. I love the fresh smell and the feel of the wind. I love to go out on my balcony during a storm and watch the lightning while experiencing the storm with all my other senses. Sometimes I wonder if that makes me weird or if I look like a psycho character in some horror movie, just standing there getting wet with a grin on my face.

    I just love thunderstorms, but sometimes I feel guilty about enjoying them when I know that other people are getting floods or losing power because of it. Of course, not enjoying the storm wouldn’t help those people in any way, so I try not to think about it. I mean, it’s not like I willed the flooding to happen. I don’t control the weather…yet.

  51. I love thunderstorms. I just find them to be very beautiful and fascinating to watch. More serious storms freak me out a lot though. I have never been through a tornado, but i’d imagine it would be a terrifying experience. 5 years ago, my house got flooded pretty badly. The entire basement was flooded and there was 3 feet of water on the 1st floor. There was about $25,000 in damages. At least the government gave us $10,500 since it was declared a natural disaster, but still many things did not get replaced. It was very freaky when we had to watch a huge river of water head down the street for our house as we were leaving. I would definitely say it was one of the worst experiences in my life.

  52. I’ve really only been frightened of thunderstorms at one time in my life.
    I’ve been an avid camper for most of my life and one of the things that comes with sleeping under a tarp is a level of comfort with the varying weather conditions you experience. I been in many storms and have a good sense of when to stay put and when to get the hell out based on conditions and actual danger vs. perceived danger.

    About 8 years ago I was on a lazy weekend trip when a thunderstorm rolled in. It was a pretty light storm with not a lot of rain but regular lighting hits every few minutes. the strikes were coming from all around so we decided we’d be best off sitting tight and waiting out the storm. The current wisdom for dealing with lightning is to crouch on a sleeping pad, this protects you from strikes from above as well as from ground shock from below. That may be fine for a quick storm that’s gone in ten minutes but after that we started getting a little lax (not to mention sore). An hour later we were sitting on our pads not noticing our feet hanging over the end of the pads and touching the ground. During this time we’d become quite relaxed and were fairly comfortable despite the regular lighting and accompanied thunder.

    Then it happened. A single flash less than 100m behind my friend as I was looking at him. The sound occurred at the same time as the flash and I felt electricity flow through my body. Having done electrical work I’ve felt my fair share of current but this was different, it didn’t feel like clean 60hz 120v. It felt organic. I realize that’s an incorrect way to describe it but it wasn’t like anything I’d felt before. And to the best of my recollection the bolt was a metre thick.

    It took a full hour for the adrenaline high to subside and for the rest of the day I was quite jumpy whenever I saw a flash, but something strange happened. After about ten minutes I developed a response where I’d be terrified for half a second and then I’d realize this new flash was much farther away as it’s corresponding boom had not yet occurred.

    I spent the rest of the day quite comfortable only to be terrified in minute increments.

    Since then I’ve grown cautiously comfortable in storms. My wife has learned to accept that when I see a flash I will slowly count to ten, that being a standard rule of thumb for safe distance.

  53. I have an unhealthy love for thunder and lightning. Rain? Not so much, but I used to scare my parents by climbing onto the roof to watch lighting. (Looking back, that was not the best idea because the best place to watch was right next to where the powerlines attached to the roof)

    There was only one time that I was actually scared to be out in a storm. When I was in high-school and I was on the roof of my house watching a storm there was a lightning streak that blinded me and an almost immediate thunderclap that shook the house so much that I started to slide off the roof. My first thought was not “Oh I could have been struck by lightning!” but “Damn. I could have fallen off the roof.” That lightning strike also killed the power in about a ten-block area.

    When I got my own house, I searched and searched for a “room with a view” for watching storms. My last house had a sun room which was almost perfect, but there were so many trees around, my view of the sky wasn’t the best. I miss that house because of that room, even though it sucked at the heat during the winter.

    I did get a ‘dream shot’ there. I managed to take this picture from that room in that house. I ran outside and snapped about a hundred more pictures, but I didn’t get anything even close to this.

    I have little interest in becoming a photographer, but if I did, I all my pictures would be of storms, but I did almost become a storm-chaser. I took a meteorology course in high-school with that in mind, but writing and computers won out (barely) Now, with most of my money coming from the stock market….. it’s on my list of things to do when my cash-flow is healthy enough for it.

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