Saturday, June 4, 2011

Some Quality Time in the Ditch, cause if #TheThunderDontGetYaThanTheLightningWill. Wild weather in YXU.

Saturday long ride. Did a long check before leaving consulting several forecasts, radar, etc. With at worse a 60% chance of showers and no thunderstorms until afternoon it didn’t look too bad, particularly if I headed out east towards Tavistock for a long ride as part of the day’s brick. OK everybody sing together, “A 3 hour tour, A 3 hour tour”. Got through Harrington on the backside of the Lakeside Loop and planned on another 15 min or so before heading back and finishing the loop. Had gotten some rain, a light amount in the first hour, by the time I got to Prospect Hill I put on my rain cape as the showers came and went. Had a Pop Tart and suddenly behind me and to the SW some lightning was happening. Hhmm. Looked north and another cell was activating, with some lightning. Damn. Turned around and started to weigh my prospects and thought I better just head straight back west and split the middle.

Within 5 minutes the cells merged. Not good, as the temperature quickly dropped, the wind picked up and the hail started. And the lightning got real bad. I started to hammer towards Harrington, a small town but somewhere that would give me some shelter to wait it out. But it got worse very fast, I stopped counting at 3 s between flash and bang (sound speed nominally is 330 m/s so do the math). I was quickly running out of time and bucking a bad headwind. I wan’t going to make it so I hung on and made it down a hill to a bit of a valley with some trees (mostly cleared farm land here) and brush, lower than the ridge across the road. And I did what I’ve taught for years in this situation, get the hell in a ditch. So I went near not under some trees and curled up in little ball for about 15 min while it downpoured and boomed and flashed.

I spent the time alternating thoughts of Maxwell’s equations (particularly Poisson’s equation) trying to reassure myself I was in a deep minimum even if my butt was getting wet because my dry ditch was now filling with water, and staring intently at the weird grass that was growing there (not that kind of grass). This stuff had tall (50 cm) stalks that looked identical to the palm stalks they give you on Palm Sunday. So I tried to alernate my science mind with the warm feeling of Palm Sunday Mass in April down in FLA where it was so warm, because I was getting very cold. The activity died down and I summoned the courage to stand up, accessed the situation and said, well at least I can make it to Harrington and took off. The weather was crazy. The winds switched from southward to north eastward very quickly en route. Weird clouds formed, check out this odd bank, which extended for much farther than the picture.


I don’t quite understand how this odd bank of clouds popped out of the scud that was all around, but I think they are marking the boundary of the cold and warm air which caused the convective activity. So drama over for now I was able to get another couple hours in then warmed up on a pleasant and dry transition run after.

Morals of the story are (a) as good as our current forecasting/monitoring equipment is small-scale phenomena can form and grow rapidly, (b) please don’t f*#k around with lightning, stay away from tall objects, get low like in a ditch.

And remember while you get weaker, Bob squats in the bush and gets stronger:



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