Southern Storms

When I moved to the south I was told things were going to be different. I thought I knew what they were talking about. You know, the strange language (accents), lots of ethnic diversity, southern hospitality, fried chicken, wonderful BBQ (I prefer to call it heavenly), and trees, lots of trees. I came ready for all of this, or so I thought. I am still in the adjustment phases, but only slightly. I have even begun to speak the language down here, “Ya’ll” being a frequent word in my vocabulary.

What I didn’t know about this area was it is a location where tornado’s frequent. They even have a season dedicated to it! Little did the people of Alabama know it has been a long time dream of mine to see a tornado. I still remember my fist time ever hearing a tornado siren down here. I was very confused by the sirens blaring across the city until my roommate explained what they were for. The instant I knew what they were for I began looking for signs of the tornado. This excerpt from my journal that night doesn’t do it justice:

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02/25/11
We went outside (the temple) and the wind was blowing very warm, and very strong. It was an awesome experience. I haven’t felt a wind like that since I was in Rexburg. We got home and right as we did the Tornado Warning Sirens went off around the city. It was awesome. I guess a tornado was spotted up near the temple where we had just been. I would have loved to have been there, but it is comforting to know I feel safe in my apartment. It was pouring rain outside just a few minutes ago, but it has stopped.

That night was the first of my experiences with tornado Sirens.I soon learned to listen to the radio for  warning and directions to the tornado. Why you may ask, so I could go to the best location to get pictures of course! One night in particular there was a spectacular  display of lightning flashing across the sky.

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Lightning caught on an 8 second exposure overlooking the city of Birmingham

Lightning caught on an 8 second exposure overlooking the city of Birmingham

A photograph cannot do the lightning justice. It was like no lightning I had ever seen in my life. I soon realized lightning was something else I was going to have to get used to in the south. It brought to mind something that happened my very first day in Alabama. I was at the very end of my trip, only 1 hour from my destination, and restless from 11 hours on the road that day and 20 hours on the road over the last two days.

12/31/10
I was driving through Alabama and there was a big lightning storm rumbling overhead. The lightning would flash in the pitch black sky and light up the horizon. It wasn’t just cool it seemed as though I was inside of a dome and the lightning was racing along the top of the dome. I loved it and got a big smile on my face every time it would flash. I later was driving in a steady downfall of rain when it completely changed from a downfall into a torrent of rain. It was maybe the most rain I have ever driven in, in my life. I couldn’t believe how much rain there was.

Almost 3 months later another storm was brewing. This night there was lightning flashing through the clouds constantly, something I don’t recall ever seeing before. The lightning I remember growing up with in Wyoming would alway touch down (sadly I could never capture the lightning isolated in the sky in a photograph). When the lightning would flash, there was no returning report of thunder. I didn’t know lightning could do that! The following is an excerpt from my journal that night:

03/26/11
I had just returned home with my groceries for the next two weeks only to discover a huge storm blowing by about 30 miles to the north, but there was tons of lightning, so I dropped everything and went to the highest point I could find in Birmingham and caught some pretty awesome Lightning shots. One even started a fire all its own. I wish I could describe the scene to you. It was dark, lightning flashing across the sky, wind whipping, and the sirens wailing and echoing eerily across the valley. It caused my heart to race and my body to pulse with energy as though I were racing against time in an effort to catch the storm as soon as possible. It was an adrenalin rush!

All the while the sirens were wailing as I went to the highest point possible to capture these shots. I must have taken over 40 shots to capture the lightning, but it was worth it. I set up my tripod and adjusted my camera and the 50mm lens to a shutter speed of 8 seconds, and an F-stop of 18, then I set a timer for 2 seconds and proceeded to take picture after picture. There were many flashes of lightning I would miss in between shots, but the photographs presented here were well worth the wait.

In the end the storm blew away to the east and I didn’t get to see my tornado, but I sure got to feel the excitement of the moment.

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