I'm trying to get up into the mountains and go backpacking, I really am. But the beautiful storms on the east side of the state keep happening.
Seems listening to your gut works most of the time, at least that's been the case for me so far this year. Basing my choices on where to pursue a storm are more what feels right than what looks right on the radar. Don't get me wrong, the weather service feeds loads of valuable and easy to access data on these storms on a constant basis, and it's a huge help in a lot of cases, especially before leaving the house. But on the really low probability storms, it's sort of a toss up. Nobody really knows what's going to happen...and that happens a lot in Wyoming it seems. Sporadic cell coverage only makes relying on data even less possible. So what's left? Your eyeballs and gut. I'm sure a lot of the real storm chasers (which I am not, nor will ever be) that rely on tech constantly these days would balk at such a notion. But really, it's Wyoming. Not many people bother chasing storms here, and let's be honest, the storms aren't really that devastating in most cases. Unless of course you're a farmer, poor folks.
Onto yesterday. I almost did not go. But I went with my first gut feeling after seeing the plumes of clouds over Douglas, WY late afternoon. Quick drive really when you do the speed limit. I'm so used to it taking over an hour to drive there in most cases, did not feel quite right arriving on time.
I run into the core just before Lost Springs, WY...population 1. Two at the moment, as I try and decide how to get to the front west side of this storm. Not really familiar with county roads in this area, so I opt for Manville (manly-ist town in WY), then hit the highway south to Guernsey. As luck would have it, there's actually a county road that goes to Glendo a ways down this highway. Perfect! I make a plume of dust as I head south and west towards Glendo Reservoir. Just in time to get in front of the core and shoot a couple of time lapses. I did not realize until I got home, but the clouds on the left are actually being pulled into the storm, thought they were heading south east...not so much. I ended up in rain quite quickly.
The county road is surprisingly resilient to water. Didn't make a track even though the rain was pouring by the time I get my gear packed and headed towards the reservoir. The storm at this point just gets weird. It's big, then small, then big again.
I end up parking along the entrance to Sandy Beach...or some such place, can't quite remember. Get out of the vehicle and I'm immediately covered in gnats. You know those annoying ass bugs that just sort of hover around you? Yeah, hundreds of them, everywhere. The storm is still just a little bit behind me, and it's dead calm. No wind to blow these little non blood sucking terrors away. During this time I snap a few shots handheld while a time lapse is rolling. A handful of people drive by. A few stop to ask obvious questions such as "What are you looking at?", "Are you taking pictures?". I try to be polite and reign in my sarcasm, all the while probably looking like Pig Pen from peanuts, completely surrounded by a small cloud of my own. "I'm looking at that big cloud over there". "Yes, taking photos of pretty clouds." Big smile, they look at me funny, then drive off on whatever adventures they are on. Ahhh, wonderful Wyoming. Better than them trying to shoot at me I suppose.
So, the storm finally arrives, taking its merry time, then it really settles in.
It spins, and spins, and spins. The clouds above me go this way and that, not quite sure if they are supposed to be a part of the storm or set off on their own. A couple of young girls stop to ask a few questions. The usual stuff, but a few are less obvious. "Which way is it going?" I point generally south and east. "Are we going to get a tornado? Those clouds above are really spinning!" No, it's too weak. They look at the cloud of bugs surrounding me, images of Pig Pen and his blanket (in my case camera) probably going through their heads. Off they drive. Tornado...right...but wait, what's that above....could it be!?!?!
Ok, maybe not a tornado. I sit for another thirty minutes or so and watch the storm ever so slowly start shifting east and south.
It's time to head on home. I check the radar and see a storm is passing just north of Casper. I give Daow a call. She says it's cloudy and windy. Good enough for me! Those are two of the biggest elements in storms right? Decide to catch the storm around Douglas. Take a few wrong roads, but eventually end up in a clear enough spot along a county road where I have a fairly unobstructed view of the cell as it barrels towards Douglas. And wow, what a storm! It's throwing lightning like Thor and Zeus are having a metal concert for the gods.
And the lightning continues....
Finally, I decide I should probably get home before Daow worries I've been hit by lightning. There will be more days of epic lightning. Not before taking a photo I've always wanted to capture though.