Capturing Lightning

Tropical Storm Cristobal will make landfall today, and I don’t know how to feel about that.

I’m not referring to the high storm surge and possible destruction it will cause throughout the Gulf states. Of course those are bad; thanks again for yet another bitch slap, 2020. I’m on the fence about that name more than anything else.

I just think hurricanes should sound fierce. Cristobal doesn’t. It’s Spanish for “Christ-bearer.” I suppose in a roundabout way it works—e.g., “Holy Christ, we can’t bear another catastrophe this year”–though personally, wouldn’t it make sense to use the Spanish name for “storm” instead? Tormenta. That sounds pretty bad-ass, right? Cristobal reminds me of a hairdresser or a soccer player, neither of whom are particularly scary.

Unfortunately, the list of official names for the 2020 hurricane season doesn’t get much better. To wit, here are a few of ’em:

  • Dolly is up next. Great for cloned sheep and amply-endowed country music stars, but a fail for a deadly storm.
  • Edouard, Gonzalo, Marco. The people in charge of naming storms were obviously on a Latin kick this year. This trio is no bueno.
  • Isaias. Spanish and Biblical, like Cristobal. It’s as if they were going down a list and checking off boxes. This was a two-for-one.
  • Nana. Are you kidding me?! That’s my grandmother. She bakes chocolate chip cookies and knits afghans. I’m not going to board up my door when she’s on her way; I’m going to open it wide and let her in!
  • Fay, Sally, Vicky. I’m all for equality (and once upon a time, tropical storms were all given female names), but names ending in “y” sound more cute than deadly. Couldn’t they have picked something like Xena? I’d make damn sure to steer clear of a warrior princess.
  • Teddy. The same holds true for men’s names. Teddy is a cute and cuddly stuffed bear. The more direct Ted, while not ideal, would have been a better choice. I can almost give this name a pass because of Roosevelt, who did awesome things like explore the Amazon jungle and finish delivering a speech after taking a bullet to the chest. But he’s pretty much the only cool Teddy to ever live (and that was 100+ years ago).
  • Kyle. Kyle’s an accountant, not a wicked storm bringing 75-mph+ winds and making mincemeat out of houses and trees. I’ll pass.
  • Wilfred. Is this a joke? Will Fred do what? Make landfall in New Orleans? Only time will tell! I give them a little bit of credit for at least not picking the similar-sounding Wilford, a name associated with Brimley, the actor-slash-oatmeal-salesman. By the way, I just googled Wilford Brimley and was shocked to learn he’s still alive. I thought he died over a decade ago.

Really, there aren’t any names this year that push all the right buttons. Hurricane Hanna has a decent ring to it, but I wish they’d turned it into a palindrome because the name just feels open-ended otherwise. Omar (Biblical and Muslim, so now we’re branching out!) has potential; it means “flourishing, long-lived” so it could be appropriate for a storm that wreaks havoc across a wide swath. It’s probably the best of the bunch. You can check out the full list of 2020 names here and decide for yourself which is best.

Tara and I are currently sitting on the back patio, enjoying the morning sunshine and a light breeze. It may storm later; we’re just hoping not as badly as Thursday evening, which packed quite a wallop. I managed to capture some great shots, including this stunner:

I should point out that this is a single image and not a composite. There was that much lightning in one single strike! I have long been in awe of the thunderstorms in the Black Hills. This line of storms caused some serious damage in Spearfish, with baseball-sized hail and 70-mph winds taking out a lot of windows in both cars and houses. We dodged a bullet in Rapid, relatively speaking; our hail was “only” about 1″ in diameter. It did manage to ruin a couple of Tara’s newly-planted tomato starts, but could have been a lot worse.

By the way, after years of futilely trying to capture lightning, I finally figured out the secret. It’s called video. I just point my phone in the direction of the storm and hit record, and then export the best frame. So much easier than aiming a camera at the sky, which is almost always a gigantic fail because, by the time you see the lightning bolt and press the shutter, it’s already gone. I’m sure purists consider what I’m doing cheating, but even our staff photographer gave me kudos for these shots, so I’ll take it.

This wasn’t the weekend we were expecting, by the way. My parents had planned a trip out here to visit, and even got as far as the Portland airport, when my mom called me Friday afternoon.

“I’ve got good news and bad news,” she said. “Our luggage is on the way to Rapid City. Unfortunately, we are not.”

My parents fly non-rev standby, an option for current and former airline employees hoping to save money on airline travel. Tickets cost a fraction of the normal price, but unfortunately, are granted on a first-come, first-serve basis dependent upon empty seats. And because of COVID, airplanes aren’t filling their cabins due to social distancing requirements. That, plus the fact that more people are taking to the skies again, meant they didn’t make their flight and had to cancel plans. I kinda hoped they’d just buy tickets since they’re so cheap nowadays. They’ve tentatively rescheduled for late July. Hopefully that will go off without a hitch.

I kind of expect we’ll be dealing with a plague of locusts right about then…

34 thoughts on “Capturing Lightning

  1. First of all that first picture…omg. 💕🔥❤💛

    You should frame it and hang it above the bed. 😶😉

    Second, once upon a time I was a hurricane… Bet you didn’t know that!

    We’re enjoying perfect summer weather here in lockdown Toronto. Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Love the photos, and wish I lived in a place that was more open to witness storms like that.
    I was intrigued with the names and Google tells me they rotate on a six-year cycle. Clearly the 2020 rotation has reached the worst of the list– Nana… Kyle… Teddy… I would be embarrassed to be associated with the World Meteorological Organization and kick out whoever thought those were appropriate names!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. And apparently names are only retired if the hurricane reaches a certain destructive status. That’s kind of like sports teams retiring the numbers of top players, huh? Very interesting!

      I loved the PNW but hated the lack of thunderstorm action. Definitely not a problem here.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Josephine isn’t half-bad, either.

      I didn’t even mention Arthur and Bertha, both of which have already come and gone. Good thing, because I give both those names a thumb’s down, too!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Mark, having lived in Florida (South and Central) for 20 years, I’ve been through about four really severe hurricane’s. The anticipation was always worse than when it actually hit. Thankfully, all four were destructive, but not to the point of losing things.

    You know, I’ve never understood HOW they come up with the names. And have you ever noticed how they rotate the names? One time it’s male, the next it’s female.

    “Nana”…that is hilarious!

    LOVE the lightening shot! It looks like something almost Biblical!

    And speaking of hail, one time in Florida during a storm, my car got destroyed in the parking lot at work. It looked like someone had thrown golf balls at my car because there were TONS of golf ball size dents all over the body.

    So sorry to hear about your parents trip. Like you said, hopefully July will go off without a hitch.

    Hope you’re having a faaabulous Sunday, my friend!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My car still has the dents and dings that were a welcome gift from South Dakota almost two years ago. I’ve thought about getting those repaired, but it’s kind of pointless when there are big hailstorms every summer…plus, I’m planning to buy a new car soon anyway.

      Glad you survived your hurricanes unscathed!


  4. Completely agree with all your hurricane name assessments. I had to google good ol’ Wilford too. Not only is he alive, he’s only 85! Angela Lansbury is 94. Now that’s more like it.
    Awesome multi-lightning shot.
    So…. does that mean you have to mail your parents’ luggage back to them? Probably cheaper for them to have bought their plane tickets.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Let’s not forget Betty White, the queen of cool! And a spry 98 years old.

      Haha…the airline kindly rerouted their luggage back to them once it arrived. They report that it showed up at their front door yesterday.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Here’s the problem with Hanna. Hanna = Hanna Barbera (Huckleberry Hound! Yogi Bear! the Flintstones! the Jetsons!). No, not a good hurricane name at all. On the other hand, when I went to Wikipedia and looked up the major and minor Greek and Roman gods and mythological figures – whoa! Now there’s a list. Yeah, spelling and pronunciation might become an issue, but they’ve got enough names to last quite a few storm seasons, and these names pack a punch. Here are just a few I threw together:

    Hurricane Nemesis (the god of retribution)
    Hurricane Hekatoncheires (giant gods of violent storms and hurricanes)
    Hurricane Cottus (one of the aforementioned giant gods, meaning “furious”)

    There are so many directions you could go with this. How about this one for irony:
    Hurricane Averruncus (a god propitiated to avert calamity)

    Throw in the Roman emperors and gladiators and you are flush with storm names for decades. We could also get multicultural and mix in the Hindu deities and those of other religions and ancient cultures. Suddenly, I want the job of “storm namer.” Do you think it pays well?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I have several thoughts here!

      1. I love Huckleberry Hound! It’s probably the most under-appreciated cartoon ever made.
      2. Hurricane Nemesis is an AWESOME name!
      3. The idea behind Hurricane Hekatoncheires is fantastic…but can you imagine newscasters trying to wrap their tongues around that one? Maybe we could shorten it to Hurricane Hek. I bet it would be one “hek” of a hurricane!
      4. Hurricane Cottus sounds too close to Hurricane Coitus. Which could be apropos, I suppose, because those in its direct path would be f*cked.
      5. I wouldn’t quit my day job hoping to strike it rich naming storms…but it would be satisfying and fun work regardless!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Following that link, I’m disappointed I missed Bertha and shocked that they are recycling names from 2014 already. Give those folks a baby name book! Or maybe start adding French names into the loop. Jean Claude. Actually, I bet there are some terrifying German names!

    No photos covering text this time!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was going to suggest Hurricane Hitler, but…umm…probably very unwise. Terrifying and evil for sure, though.

      I don’t know why they recycle the names so frequently. They could at least choose GOOD names to rotate, but…nope. Which means in 2026 we’re going to be dealing with Tropical Storm Sally once again.


  7. I could name hurricanes for a living. I’d do it as a side gig from my real strength, which is naming nail polish colors. I’d use the cutest/clever names for the polish, the fierce/historical names for the storms. You’ve given me a new goal in life. Where do I apply for these jobs?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I imagine NOAA is the place to drop off your resume. I’m curious about your nail polish colors, too. Do you have a good example?

      What we really need is somebody to name paint samples in hardware stores. Think you’d be down for that task?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. LMAO! That’s great. I couldn’t comment there, so I’m replying here. Some company should really come out with a lineup under those names. They’re sure to appeal to anybody who likes to “zhoosh it up!”

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Giving the hurricanes such weak names will encourage one to escalate from a tropical storm to a Cat 5 overnight just to prove a point…

    Those are some nice shots of lightning! It’s lame that your parents trip didn’t work–I hope the July trip works out.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Hurricane Nana. Not likely to inspire the fear one normally associates with killer storms. Unless you remove the doilies from her armchair…. then watch out.
    That bitch be fierce.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I think we should make up a Category list for a Grandma hurricanes. Doilies? Cat 1. Water rings? Cat 5. Wonder where not eating her ambrosia salad would land..


  10. I cringed every time the news people tried to pronounce Cristobal here in Arkansas. It comes out more like “Crystal Ball”. They’ll never figure out Edouard.

    Your lightning pics are amazing!!!

    So sorry your parents couldn’t get a flight.


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