July 22, 2009

When can you see lightnings and stars directly overhead?

Last Tuesday night, apparently.

We had a freak storm in my town Tuesday night - from what I heard, it was one of the worst the natives ever saw. We had hurricane-force winds, over 80 mph. Lightnings raged overhead, and it was so close. Remember, Denver is a mile higher; closer to the cloud. So close I was seriously worried about our safety. It went like this: CRACKBOOMCRACKCRACKBOOM
BOOMCRACKBOOMCRACKCRACKBOOM
BOOMCRACKBOOMCRACKCRACKBOOMBOOM

Recently I read somewhere that the lightnings themselves, when they arc, it's soundless - the subsequent thunder is from air being displaced so forcefully. The storm Tuesday night disproved that.

The storm dropped marble-sized hail in my area. It covered the ground so thoroughly that it looked like snow. When I went outside, I discovered that it was at least three inches deep.

(sorry about the bad pic)

There was so much hail on the ground that the next morning, a thick fog formed and rolled in off the mountains. This is also abnormal for Denver. The hail took its sweet time melting. Yesterday at about 2 or 3 PM, I took Apollo for a walk and discovered that we still had clumps of hail on the ground.


Anyway, back to the tale. The wind, as I said, was blowing so hard that it was horizontal. Eighty miles per hour wind - and possibly higher. I couldn't sleep through this, so I sat at my very big window and watched the trees bend under the weight. I was convinced they would break and fall on my cars. Fortunately, the ones in front of my apartment didn't. My neighbors weren't so lucky.

When the wind and hail died down, all of my neighbors and I went outside to check the damage out and assess the situation. We didn't have any power, and camping taught me it's rude to shine a flashlight in someone's face. So I had to satisfy myself by wandering around. I looked skyward to try see if we were getting another set of storms and what I saw was amazing. No pics, unfortunately. The sky was divided in half; the western portion was crystal clear with a few lazy puffs of clouds obscuring the stars. And the other half, moving slowly eastward, mean clouds, occasionally lit purple or blue by the lightnings, lingered. Lightnings were still just as bad as during the height of the storm, bursting through the clouds. I'm not a poet, and I'm not describing it very well. Suffice it to say, it was very impressive.

This is what my front walk looked like. Where is it?

Where's the grass? And yes, that's the fallen tree in the background.

1 Comments (Click here to comment):

Julian July 22, 2009 at 1:22 PM  

Re: Lightning and Thunder...

Actually, the thunder's caused by the air collapsing in on the vacuum left behind when the superheated plasma that was the lightning passes. Because light travels faster than sound, you see the lightning before you hear it.

You can tell how far away a storm/lightning strike is by counting the number of seconds between when you see the lightning strike and hear the thunder, and divide by 5. This gives you the distance in miles. Thus, if you count 10 seconds between lightning and thunder, then 10/5 = 2 miles away.

THEREFORE: since there was zero delay in the lightning and thunder, it means you were basically right next to the lightning (less than 1/5th of a mile or within 1050 feet).

That's pretty dang close to something traveling at the speed of light, and six times hotter than the surface of the sun!

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