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Cocoa, Florida, lightning by Chris Kridler
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Supposedly you can set off fireworks anytime for “agricultural purposes” in Florida, like frightening birds away from fish hatcheries. Seriously — it’s in the law. And these days, you can also shoot them off on July 4 or New Year’s Eve/Day without owning a farm – not that this recent exception has really changed anything. People have been buying and blowing up the big stuff for years whenever they want.

I’m not talking about sparklers; I’m talking about the fireworks that shoot up in the air and explode in a fountain of money. I mean, sparks.

As you might expect, our neighborhoods are full of wild private fireworks displays on the Fourth of July that are loud, beautiful, and terrifying to animals.

I was at a small gathering on a canal in a Satellite Beach neighborhood for this year’s Fourth of July celebration and got to see several of these quasi-legal home displays firsthand. They were certainly pretty.

It was a stormy night, and as the clouds rolled through, I caught timelapse sequences with my GoPro. The result is this fun little video showing just how many fireworks one can see in the middle of a Florida neighborhood on July Fourth.

Duck!

A screen grab from the GoPro timelapse of a Florida neighborhood’s fireworks on July 4, 2021.

 

My simple setup for shooting the timelapse video includes an LED work light and a GoPro on a tripod.

Almost every year, I try to capture the blossoming of night-blooming cereus flowers in a timelapse video. These cactus vines produce dinner-plate-size flowers in late spring where I live — central Florida — and each flower blooms just once. The aromatic flower begins to open at sunset and closes at dawn.

Some nights, several flowers bloom at once, making a spectacular display. The cactus vine grows up one of our palm trees, and I’m also trying to get it started on our oak after seeing pictures of an oak in Orlando draped with the giant flowers.

For the timelapse this year, I used a GoPro Hero 8 in timelapse mode. I lit the flowers with a simple LED worklight.

Night-blooming cereus produce flowers the size of dinner plates.

The vines can be covered in blooms, but each flower pops just once.


 
There’s nothing like waking up in Roswell, New Mexico, and not having time to enjoy all the UFO-related tourist traps. At least Alethea Kontis and I had done so before … but this morning of May 29, we had to get on the road and get up to southeast Colorado to reach our chase target. We were in good company, as a flotilla of other storm chasers also thronged the roads once we got there.

We caravanned with Scott McPartland and Dave Lewison, in Scott’s Xterra, which sports shields to keep out hail, as well as Jason Persoff, whose car has a number of honorable hail dents. Jason was one of the lucky chasers on the Campo, Colorado, tornado in 2010, and our target was in the same area in what he recognized as similar conditions.

Alethea Kontis photographs Scott McPartland and Dave Lewison as they demonstrate the “mirror cozy” addition to their hail shields.

 
We ended up north and west of Campo, southwest of Pritchett, keeping an eye on storms that showed little organization. But the models called for better dewpoints to accompany moisture-transporting winds from the south, and when they arrived – bingo! The storm we were watching evolved quickly into a rotating supercell.

The video and photos at 6:20 p.m. Mountain Time show a tornado obscured by wrapping rain curtains.

 

A map shows part of our route on May 29. Click to see a larger image.

A wall cloud followed, then a big cone tornado as rain wrapped around the mesocyclone. Yes, it was another “maybenado” of 2021, except enhanced images and other chasers’ reports confirm that we did indeed see a tornado. Hey, even if it was in the murk, I’ll take it.

As we tried to keep up with the storm, we bounced on a dusty gravel road through Colorado canyons, headed south across the Oklahoma border. This is a hilly area, and Alethea and I found a couple of high spots to watch inflow streaming into the storm, which produced one apparent wall cloud after another. In spite of radar showing rotation in just the right spot, and suggestive, ground-scraping cloud features, we saw no other tornadoes.

We all met up on the road again as darkness fell. We stopped on the north side of Boise City, Oklahoma, at the Cimarron Heritage Center, which has a fantastic big dinosaur sculpture that was the perfect foreground for lightning. After fun photography (and a very cool timelapse – check out the video), we ran into other chasers in town, compared notes, and wrapped up what was a really fun chase.

In spite of maybe-nadoes.

The storm spawns a nice lightning crawler over the dinosaur sculpture at the Cimarron Heritage Center.

 

Roll over any picture to see a caption, or click on one to start a slide show of larger images.

 

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