Saturday, July 12, 2014

Photos of summertime weather so far in the Charleston area

Panoramic image during my run over the Ravenel Bridge on July 12.
A storm in the other direction during my July 12 run.
A panoramic image of the July 12 storm passing the Ravenel Bridge.
Clouds associated with the outer bands of Hurricane Arthur, as see from Isle of Palms on July 3.
A panorama of the Arthur cloud cover off Isle of Palms.

Pelicans skimming the waves, which hit 6 to 8 feet in height off Isle of Palms during Arthur.
Surfer enjoying Arthur waves.
Picture that my wife took of a partial rainbow above the Ravenel Bridge on June 28.
Seen from Mount Pleasant, this storm over Summerville spawned a funnel cloud June 25.
A shower, a construction site and a U-Haul lot on June 23 from the top of The Post and Courier.
Just a sun-lit rain shower June 22 from the top of The Post and Courier building.
Another panoramic image of an anvil cloud June 16.
In Mount Pleasant, sunset lighting up the edge of clouds associated with a distant storm June 14.
Seen from the top of The Post and Courier in downtown Charleston, the sunrise over the Ravenel Bridge on June 9.
Seen from Mount Pleasant, an anvil cloud associated with a several thunderstorm June 6.
Another sunrise June 3.
Lightning from the bank of the Wando River at Highway 41 near Mount Pleasant on May 23.
More lightning from the May 23 storm that had a severe warning.
This storm fizzled before it got to me, so I never captured any close-up bolts.
A gust front ahead of a thunderstorm April 30, as seen from the rooftop at work.
The turbulent "whale's mouth" effect associated with many a thunderstorm in the South and with the one April 30.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Bumping shoulders with the stars in Charleston

With its tasty food and Southern culture, Charleston is a world-class destination. It's no surprise that celebrities visit. I've stumbled into several during my two years here. On Sept. 8, we were taking a family stroll during downtown Charleston's "Second Sunday" shopping promotion when I noticed a couple walking by. I heard the man talk, and I knew it was actor Ryan Reynolds. His wife, Blake Lively, was walking next to him. They happened to be celebrating their first wedding anniversary that weekend. They had gotten married a year earlier at Boone Hall Plantation in Mount Pleasant.
TV series and movies are occasionally filmed here, and of course, they're going to bring actors with them. "Reckless" is a crime drama set to premier on CBS this summer. On March 22, 2013, I saw two of its stars, Cam Gigandet and Anna Wood (I think), acting a scene on the steps of City Hall in downtown Charleston.
Then more recently, on Feb. 8, we were spending an afternoon at the bowling alley in Mount Pleasant when I thought I recognized someone there. We had already bowled several strings on the lanes, but Julia wanted to throw a few on the miniatures lanes, which is an arcade game there. While we did that, actor Shawn Hatosy was having fun with his children and wife right next to us. Hatosy also will appear in CBS' "Reckless," but he's probably better known for his significant role in "Southland" on TNT. I had started watching the Los Angeles police drama before it, unfortunately, got canceled.
My first run-in with an actor in Charleston came nearly two years ago, on May 20, 2012. Carrie and I were eating dinner at Slightly North of Broad, known as S.N.O.B., when my then-future wife thought she saw Owen Wilson at the table behind me. She finally said something about it after she saw the chef come out and talk to Wilson. Once she alerted me to his presence, my ears recognized his distinctive voice. Carrie pretended to take a photo of me and got Wilson in the shot. I'm pretty proud to say that none of the celebrities in this post ever knew I was taking pictures of them. We haven't seen comedian Bill Murray yet, but he lives here, so I suppose we will someday.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Earthshine on the moon and sunshine on Earth

On the night of the Oscars, only a crescent of the moon was lit by the sun. The rest was lit by sunlight bouncing off Earth, a phenomenon known as earthshine. I've always found this sight pretty, so I snapped a photo from my backyard as an airplane happened to fly by.
On Jan. 21, I had just reached my car parked atop the garage near the Charleston County courthouse when I noticed sunlight poking through the clouds. I took a shot with the silhouette of the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in the foreground.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The big ice storms of 2014 ... in South Carolina

The extent of ice accumulation on the grass near my place in Mount Pleasant. Surfaces with more surface area might have accumulated up to a quarter inch.

The Ice Storm of 1998 remains one of the fondest memories of my childhood.

I was in the eighth grade in Down East, Maine. The storm started off as a lot of sleet: about 1 foot. And shoveling a foot of sleet is like shoveling sand. It's heavy and not fun.

Then came the freezing rain. It built up on tree branches and utility lines. We lost power for about a week. Schools were closed, too. ("Yay!" I said then. But not now.)

The ice was beautiful. So my family of photographers took pictures.

It was cold. So we put the frozen food outside and the food from the refrigerator in an unheated entryway.

The house was heated with a wood stove. So we were toasty.

We cooked food on the stove or over an open flame in an outside fireplace. We once drove to the next town over and ate at one of the few restaurants in the area -- a real treat.

The moon was just about full. So at night, my brother and I went sledding under its light.

We made the most of what could have been a difficult situation.

But when a storm with just a fraction of the severity of what I experienced in Maine happens in South Carolina, all hell breaks loose.

Schools are canceled before anything starts falling from the sky.

Bridges are shut down, and the lack of traffic and its friction allow them to glaze over with a coating of ice.

People can't get to work because their children don't have school or because all the routes are blocked by what a native Mainer would call overly cautious authorities.

That all happened late last month and again early this month.

The first storm -- I don't know if you can even call it a storm, though -- started Jan. 28 in the Charleston area.

The temperature was still above freezing when it started raining. But officials closed the schools early that day. They also would be closed for the next two days and would get a late start on the fourth day.

The Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge was shut down not long after the ground-level temperature hit 32 degrees. Smaller bridges followed, making it impossible for me to get to work in less than two hours.

So I stayed home and took pictures of ice-coated vegetation before doing some actual work on news stories.

The carnage was minimal in this storm. Some areas were hit with power outages, but they were not widespread.

A pine branch fell over the sidewalk that I usually use for my daily runs, and that was the most extreme example of damage I witnessed.

Ironically, the most damage that this storm did cause came when the temperatures rose.

That Friday, as it climbed toward the 50s, the ice melted and fell from the cables of the Ravenel Bridge, smashing the windows and denting the metal of the cars traveling underneath it.

Of course, authorities here knew this was a possibility, but it's not like they deal with these situations often. They closed it for seven hours, until the cables were clear of ice.

So when the second ice storm hit the night of Feb. 4, they were even more cautious.

It didn't matter that the temperature in the immediate Charleston area had just barely hit 32 degrees during the rainy night. Ice formed on the cars and trees -- although not as severely as the first time (if you could even call that severe).

I didn't even bother taking pictures.

One of the two bridges from my home in Mount Pleasant to downtown Charleston remained open, so I got to work on time.

But the main bridge was closed for more than two days as we all waited for the ice to melt off it. It didn't warm up so quickly after the second storm, like it did after the first.

Schools were closed on the first day, even though the roads in Charleston County remained largely free of ice. They were closed on the second day, too, for a reason that still eludes me. The ice was gone here.

A little farther north, in Dorchester and Berkeley counties (which are areas that my newspaper covers), the folks were not as fortunate. They, as well as residents of several surrounding counties, saw heavy ice accumulation. Power outages were widespread and were lingering in some spots as of this writing.

My home is in a community where most of the lines are underground. We dodged power losses altogether.

But my home also had no backup source of heat with which to cook food. There was no foot of sleet or snow on the ground for sledding. It wasn't cold enough outside to keep our frozen meat frozen. My wife and I would have been lost without our fully charged iPhones, and the same fate would have befallen my wife's daughter and her Kindle.

So an ice storm like the one I saw during my childhood in Maine would not have been as much fun here in the Palmetto State. Residents here, homes here, officials here just can't deal with the problem as well because they're not supposed to have the problem.

Our dog, though, loved eating icy grass. He enjoys eating grass and ice cubes, so eating both simultaneously was heaven.

But even the dog -- the wimp that he is -- would have been shivering at night without electricity.

So I'd prefer to keep all this sort of weather up north, where it belongs with the people and the dogs who are supposed to cope with it.

This was the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge before the storm hit Jan. 28. Layers of cloud cover are visible in the background.
When it started raining late in the afternoon on Jan. 28, I wasn't deterred. I still went for a run. It was about 31 degrees. Even at that temperature, the rain still froze to my jacket.
On Jan. 28, ice started to form on the tips of these palm fronds.
Winston got his first taste of a winter storm on the morning of Jan. 29. The storm included periods of sleet and was capped with a brief snowfall, hence the white stuff on the ground. This heavy accumulation, of course, caused traffic bedlam.
Pine needles and ice in my 'hood.
These are mailboxes. That's right. Mailboxes. WITH ICE ON THEM! IN SOUTH CAROLINA! Is your mind blown yet?
And this would be a fence.
Pedestrian traffic was a nightmare after this branch fell. Luckily, there were no power lines near this one. You also can see that the featured truck is kicking up some good spray, indicating the elevated surface temperature of the road. It was wet but no slipperier than it would be on a rainy day.
Bush and berries off a traffic circle near my family's pad.
I tried to do something special with the sun and the ice on these palm fronds, but my macro lens (the one used for closeups) got stolen a few years back. Criminals are more destructive than this ice was.
I drove over the Ravenel Bridge on Jan. 31 about 10 minutes before things got really hairy. My dashboard video camera caught some falling ice, but it was too far off for the wide angle lens to prominently show in the video. Above is a still image of some of the ice that got smashed into bits on the road surface. When the large chunks falling off the bridge started to hit cars, the police closed the bridge for another seven hours. Here's the story I wrote about that:

Monday, January 27, 2014

A fake snow day just days before a possible real snow day

Winterfest 2014 gave us a chance to experience some snowfall. It was manufactured, of course. Supposedly, 50 tons of the white stuff were pumped onto the grounds of Patriots Point along Charleston Harbor in Mount Pleasant.

Julia first enjoyed tossing snowballs at Carrie and me in a freestyle play area. With temperatures above 50 degrees, though, the snow turned quickly into slush.

Julia got her fill of playtime -- here, she's pegging her mother with a snowball -- before the workers made everyone clear out so they could refill the area.

Two fake hills consisting of hydraulic lifts on the back of two large trailers gave Julia a chance to go sledding -- something she hadn't done in a few years. Of course, we waited in line much longer than the two seconds it took for her to slide from the top to the bottom.

Ironically, after we attended this event Saturday, we got a clearer picture of the forecast for the coming week. A winter storm watch is in effect, and we could see a few inches of ice or snow here in Charleston on Wednesday morning. Winter 2007 was the last time I saw snow accumulate in a place I call home.