Saturday, December 5, 2009

Fizzling out on a potentially stormy night

Storm clouds build late in the afternoon Wednesday. They weren't associated with the particular squall line that swept across the state early the next day. At this private marina along U.S. 1 in northern Melbourne, I held my camera above a roadside fence to get this shot. The sun was low on the horizon behind me.

As mentioned in a post earlier this week, winters often bring more tranquil weather to Florida. But occasionally, strong, large-scale systems can move through the Southeast and spawn strong thunderstorms and tornadoes. A tornado that damaged a condominium in Cocoa Beach in February 2008 was part of such a system. Meteorologists have said that an El Nino pattern could make for a particularly active winter storm season.

On Wednesday night and early Thursday morning, forecasters were predicting that a strong squall line would move diagonally across the Florida peninsula, bringing strong wind, rain and lightning to most of the state. A tornado watch was in effect for much of the night in counties throughout the region, including my own Brevard County. In Brevard on Wednesday, the air got hotter than was the case in much of Central Florida, so I was hoping that strong thunderstorms would pop up along the squall line as it moved through the county.

The forecast in general, though, indicated that Mother Nature could produce some good photo opportunities. There's a thrill I get out of shooting lightning that I don't with other nature subjects. People, of course, will beat out anything nature offers, but that's for another post. Unlike some human subjects, though, nature frequently does not cooperate.

The storm early Thursday took hours to reach Florida's east coast, and by the time it did, it was just a big bucket that dumped a few inches of rain on the Space Coast. For shooting, I camped out under the State Road 520 causeway over the Indian River in Cocoa. The location offered protection from the rain. But heavy precipitation obstructed my view of the lightning - what little there was. I drove back home at 6 a.m. - stopping at two spots along the way to get out, look around for lightning and get drenched, but nothing more - without a satisfactory shot.

I always like to make exceptions for myself when I see "no trespassing" or "closed" signs. And that's what I did at a park along the State Road 520 causeway on the Indian River in Cocoa. It was supposed to be closed after sunset, but there was no gate preventing me from accessing it. This shot shows only the blue-purple glow from a flash of lightning - no bolts.

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