Tuesday, August 11, 2020


Moab, UT

91.8 F

    Idle Thoughts from Mt. Waas
    A superlative lightning storm…

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    You don’t get to use many superlatives once you get to be an old guy, unless they are negative superlatives describing one’s latest ache or pain, the decline of one’s hearing or vision or the general state of one’s health. Which makes the lightning storm in the night all the better.

    Frankly, in all my years, it was the biggest, most beautiful, most awesome, most stunning display of lightning I ever saw. It was truly amazing!

    Barbara and I went to Clovis, N.M., to visit our son, Doyle, his beautiful wife, Ileana, and the grandkids. On Thursday, Jan. 2, Doyle and Ileana took us to Lubbock, Texas, for dinner and some shopping. It was dark when we left Lubbock and traveled northwest toward Clovis.

    A few miles east of Clovis, while we were still in Texas, we turned north to put us on a better line to their house on the north edge of town. As soon as we turned north and looked out the side windows to the east, we were awestruck by the unceasing flashes of lightning. Doyle turned east and parked beside a road to give us a clear view to the east and to the southeast where the lightning was raging.

    The lightning was continuous. I asked Barbara to count off 15 seconds while Doyle and I counted lightning strikes. Doyle and I divided the sky. He took all of the sky from the northeast across to a little south of east, and I took all of the sky visible from the right side of the car where I was sitting. We counted several sets of 15 seconds. The average number of strikes per 15 seconds was about 45. Once, we counted 50 strikes in 15 seconds. Doyle said that he had to slightly blur his vision and stare straight ahead, counting the lightning flashes in the periphery of his vision. There were simply too many to look from one to the other without missing some. We seldom saw actual lightning bolts. By far, most of the lightning was inside the clouds.

    By now, some of my friends will be asking, “Ok, Ollie, where is the photographic proof?” As we left for Lubbock that afternoon, I remarked, “ Aw, rats! I forgot my camera.” After we watched the lightning display for several minutes, we continued on home. Once we had unloaded the car, I gathered my camera and tripod, a couple of grandkids, a warm jacket and hat, and Doyle took us back out of town to take some pictures.

    We chose a place where there were no intervening lights nearby. In the far distance, below the cloud-bank in which the lightning storm was winding down, was a string of lights along a highway. We pulled off into a field and I quickly set up my camera. The lightning flashes were greatly diminished but there were still enough to be encouraging.

    I set my shutter speed to eight seconds hoping that during any given eight-second interval, a lightning flash would occur within the field of view of my camera. I don’t know exactly how many cycles of the shutter being open for eight seconds I shot. It may have been as many as a hundred.

    Many will be deleted as there was no lightning flash. But, some of them are spectacular. They show angry, billowy clouds illuminated from within by a brilliant flash of lightning. Some even show a lightning bolt reaching like a tail to the ground.

    I wondered how it would have been to be immediately below the storm, to have listened to the continuous, cacophonous sounds of thunder. I don’t know if it rained or hailed, but it sure was spectacular.

    ByBy Ollie Harris

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