Monday, August 18, 2008

My Beautiful World - Day 5

I live in the right place, given my attraction for storms. As Tropical Storm Fay moves closer to Florida, the skies are growing more interesting. This is my totally non-scientific description of the approach of a storm.

I don't know if we were technically within what they refer to as "feeder bands" of the storm today or not, but the skies were amazing. On and off all day, brief periods of blue skies gave way to tropical clouds. That is my term for them. They are definitely different from "normal" clouds.

The clouds in tropical systems look different from the typical afternoon summertime thunderstorms we have nearly every day. Regular thunderstorms come from extremely tall clouds that tend to be light at the top (sometimes at the very top they resemble the white fluffy clouds that accompany good weather) and the purplish-black color of a deep bruise at the bottom. Those clouds bring thunder and lightning, often incredibly gorgeous sky-to-ground lightning. They also sometimes spawn tornadoes or short bursts of damaging winds.

Tropical clouds are different. They are not as light at the top and not as dark at the bottom. They are more gray than purple. Before the main body of the storm hits, the clouds tend to be somewhat wispy and disorganized. They make amazing formations in the sky. As the main storm approaches, the clouds become darker, more compact and more opaque. As the main body of the storm approaches, it can sometimes seem like nightfall.

The rain from a tropical system is different from "regular" rain, too. Normal thunderstorms start with huge drops of water that give way to pounding, pelting rain which can often feel very cold compared with the surrounding air. The rain from tropical systems is warmer and it falls in sheets, which may fall straight down before the wind really kicks up and then comes down horizontal when the storm winds pick up.

Without for a minute taking lightly the terrible destruction and suffering tropical systems can cause, I have to stop to acknowledge today the terrible beauty of these awesome storms.

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