A Storm-Chasing Photographer Creates a Dramatic Video of Supercell Thunderstorms

Vimeo
Vimeo

Most people flee inside at the sight of thunderclouds, but Chad Cowan runs towards them. As Colossal reports, the Kansas-based photographer and filmmaker has spent the past decade chasing storms across America’s Tornado Alley, a storm-prone region in the southern plains of the central United States.

Cowan’s goal, according to his website, is “to capture the awe inspiring beauty of nature in the most extreme and violent weather on Earth.” And with the timelapse video below, which Cowan created with friend Kevin X Barth, he does just that. Called Fractal, the three-minute film features the most awe-inspiring moments from hundreds of supercell thunderstorms, which Cowan recorded in high definition “over the last six years from Texas to North Dakota and everywhere in between,” he explains on Vimeo.

“The project started out as wanting to be able to see the life cycles of these storms, just for my own enjoyment and to increase my understanding of them,” Cowan writes. “Over time, it morphed into an obsession with wanting to document as many photogenic supercells as I could, in as high a resolution as possible, as to be able to share with those who couldn't see first-hand the majestic beauty that comes alive in the skies above America's Great Plains every Spring.”

You can watch Fractal below:

[h/t Colossal]

How Waffle House Helps Measure the Severity of a Natural Disaster

iStock
iStock

There are a lot of ways the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) assesses and addresses the severity of a natural disaster. Meteorology can predict movement patterns, wind gusts, and precipitation. Resources are dispatched to areas hit hardest by torrential weather.

But when the agency needs an accurate, ground-level gauge for how a community is coping during a crisis, they turn to Waffle House.

Since 2004, FEMA has utilized what former administrator Craig Fugate called the “Waffle House Index.” Because the casual dining chain is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, tracking to see if a location is closed or working with limited supplies can help inform the agency as to whether affected areas are ailing or taking steps toward normalcy.

“If a Waffle House is closed because there's a disaster, it's bad,” Fugate told NPR in 2011. “We call it red. If they're open but have a limited menu, that's yellow ... If they're green, we're good, keep going. You haven't found the bad stuff yet.”

For FEMA, the ability to order a plate of smothered and covered hash browns is an important analytic. If a Waffle House is having trouble getting stock, then transportation has been interrupted. If the menu is limited, then it’s possible they have some utilities but not others. If its locations have locked their doors, inclement weather has taken over. The chain’s locations would normally stay open even in severe conditions to help first responders.

The company has opened a Waffle House Storm Center to gather data in anticipation of Hurricane Florence, a Category 2 storm expected to touch down in the Carolinas this week. But not all locations are taking a wait-and-see approach. One Waffle House in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina has already closed due to the looming threat, making it the first red dot on the Index.

[h/t CNN]

See What Hurricane Florence Looks Like From Space

NASA via Getty Images
NASA via Getty Images

As Hurricane Florence continues to creep its way toward the Carolinas, it’s repeatedly being described as both "the storm of the century” and "the storm of a lifetime” for parts of the coastlines of North and South Carolina. While that may sound like hyperbole to some, Alexander Gerst—an astronaut with the European Space Agency—took to Twitter to prove otherwise with a few amazing photos, and issued a warning to “Watch out, America!”

According to the National Weather Service, “Hurricane Florence will be approaching the Carolina shores as the day progresses on Thursday. Although the exact timing, location, and eventual track of Florence isn't known, local impacts will likely begin in the afternoon hours and only worsen with time throughout the evening and overnight period.”

On Tuesday, Wilmington, North Carolina's National Weather Service took the warning even one step further, writing: "This will likely be the storm of a lifetime for portions of the Carolina coast, and that's saying a lot given the impacts we've seen from Hurricanes Diana, Hugo, Fran, Bonnie, Floyd, and Matthew. I can't emphasize enough the potential for unbelievable damage from wind, storm surge, and inland flooding with this storm.”

Gerst’s photos certainly drive that point home.

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