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June 23, 2008 — Daytime lightning & stormy sunset colors from Broadus to Alzada, MT
We began the day in Glendive, MT and decided on a target downstream of the Big Horn Mountains, as we liked the mid-50s dewpoints hanging around near the stalled out front near the WY-MT border area. Another possible target was quite a bit farther east into North Dakota, but we didn’t feel like going all that way as we could have ended up on the opposite side of the state, only to drive back west again the next day. We were hoping for a good storm or two to develop near Sheridan or the WY-MT border and track along the border area. The drive from Miles City to Broadus took us through Volborg — a post-office "town" with a population of 2. There is a small General Store there that also operates as the Post Office, which is run by Dick Stanley and his wife. The front of the General Store states a population of 5, which represented several more of the Stanley family, but they have since moved on to other portions of the Southeast Montana/Northeast Wyoming region. We had an absolutely lovely visit with Mr. Stanley, and his little General Store out in the middle of nowhere on highway 59 to the north-northwest of Broadus. Most importantly for our purposes, he had internet access there in his store, and he was more than welcome to allow us to look at some meteorological data as we conversed about different things such as being a (precipitation only) Co-op observer for the National Weather Service in Billings. Below you will find a photo of Mr. Stanley — who represents one-half the current population of Volborg.
After that fun visit, we continued on to Broadus, and we visited the library to get some data (talk about old-school!) since we had no cell data service in Southeast Montana. We monitored three areas of interest: 1) A line of surface-based cumulus to our north which extended northwest to southeast…through about Volborg, 2) a severe storm that had developed over the Big Snowy Mountains south of Lewistown (this is a hot-spot for storm initiation, by the way), and 3) storms organizing to our west-southwest over the northern portion of the Big Horns. We optioned for #3, and we decided to take a scenic unpaved route southwest out of Broadus that parallels the Powder River — Moorhead Rd. We ultimately only went about 10 miles down that road before turning back around to Broadus… but the scenery was wonderful and would make for an awesome drive when more time allows. Storms to our west and southwest were struggling mightily with a lack of decent structure both on radar (ThreatNet) and visually. We decided to head west to intercept the storm mentioned above as option #2. We only got about 10 miles west of Broadus when we realized the lightning to our west-southwest was rather frequent, sharp, and photogenic. So we stopped. And it’s a good thing we did — as the lightning was beautiful with excellent visibility. We stayed here for a little while then back-tracked again to Broadus to follow this development southeast on Hwy 212. We stopped again several more times along the way to Belle Fourche, where we stayed the night. Our last sunset stop near the MT-WY state line southeast of Alzada was very photogenic with very awesome, warm colors from the setting sun. Lightning in the distance amidst the orange hues of the late evening sunset made for nice photography — and this is the very reason why we love chasing up here — as seemingly innocuous storms can be extremely photogenic with the wide-open spaces and incredible visibility/light. These photography opportunities really made the day. Some images are below — including one fine image (the 4th one below) by Vince of me silhouetted against the bright backdrop towards the sun, while photographing lightning with my camera gear… which includes the lightning that I was photographing. It was handheld with a shutter speed of 1/320 of a second. I don’t know how he got that shot!! But I love it. In fact, it was 1 of 2 lightning images he just so happened to capture yesterday hand-held with a fast (for lightning) shutter speed. Of course, I was shooting with the Lightning Trigger on my D200, but Vince showed that last night, you can take daytime lightning photos without it