Sunday, July 19, 2015

Hurricane Dolores Hits Paso Robles

Hurricane Dolores ceased to be a hurricane over the weekend, but that did not keep it from spewing its tropical essence across the skies above the North County of San Luis Obispo County. Late last evening the flashes started to manifest themselves in my peripheral vision through my kitchen window. Soon enough the convection was close enough I could hear thunder here in Paso Robles.

In a first for me in my weather experience, I endured approximately 14 hours of fairly consistent thunder and lightning with only a sporadic half hour or so break here or there as the atmosphere reconstituted its storm self for another assault. Most of that period I was in Paso Robles although I spent some of the last several hours of it in Templeton and Atascadero this morning helping a friend move from the former to the latter often while working under lightning in the sky above. But for the grace of God went I safely.

The story here is not only of thunder and lightning, but also of an accompanying tropically-derived rainfall that caused flooding on various side-streets in my neighborhood and along Spring Street (the main drag of town) and in some businesses along it in the downtown area near me. I have not heard the storm rainfall tallies yet but I'm sure we broke records for the day if not the month as a result of this highly unusual weather event wherein the storms seemed to get stuck over the area or continued to form over it.

This rain caused a water flow alarm at winery workplace of my childhood friend and neighbor and landlord Mark which was located near the junction of Highway 46 and Vineyard Drive. He was asked by the owner to go look for storm damage and invited me to tag along. Unable to sleep and wired by the weather, I was glad to join him on the adventure as his wingman and security chief. There was no damage but we saw some amazingly vivid and surreal lightning displays and drove through serious street flooding on South Vine Street where it is a frontage road to Highway 101. We also smelt smoke from burning oak woodland somewhere near the aforementioned intersection, but we were unable to determine its source.

Getting back to the lightning and thunder, some strikes hit my neighborhood causing damage to one pole a block southwest of my home that I witnessed (which seared my eyesight temporarily) and which set the pole's top ablaze and damaged a transformer affixed to it causing the transformer to glow earily blue with some sort of unhealthy flamage. A firetruck was dispatched to it by a neighbor's call which engine Mark and I followed home and to our chagrin we realized was on our street. Upon getting home I walked down to see what was going on as it was not immediately obvious until I looked down the alley bisecting the next block diagonally to my southwest. I got yelled at by a firefighter for walking in water possibly charged by a downed powerline I did not see in the dark so I left. I regret not capturing any images of any of this.

Late last night and fairly early on in this weather event, My dog Tequila freaked out and somehow found a way through the fence and escaped into an adjacent neighbor's yard whom returned her immediately. She did the same again this morning while I was helping the aforementioned friend move. I had left her alone because it appeared at the time the stormy weather was over which turned out to be a misleading appearance. While working at my friend's new house I got a call and text message from an unfamiliar San Francisco area code number that they had found my dog running amok and wanted to repatriate it with me. I headed home with my cell phone's battery failing which was convenient timing. Quite fortunately that worked out and I did not let her out of my sight the rest of the day even taking her with me to work in San Luis Obispo this afternoon into this evening.

What follows are some images I captured of the storm. For much of the storm event I did not even try to take photos and when I did I started out with automatic settings and accomplished as much as I could at my current proficiency. Then at a certain point I felt inspired to go manual and try some new things which I'm glad I did. This is the most lightning images I have ever captured from a single event. They are not great but they are largely an improvement on my previous attempts. It helped that these storm cells provided so many flickering return strokes which made it easier for me to capture lightning bolts without playing with the f-stop and opening up the shutter for extended periods to capture whatever happened for the duration, but rather I was able to simply react to what I saw and capture it reactively.

What follows are the best images I captured in the wee hours of this morning and are shown in the order taken. All lightning images were taken from my alleyway and mostly show the church next door backlit by lightning flashes. The last four images show some minor street damage due to debris deposition.

Part A of first photo couplet showing lightning illuminated neighborhood view looking east from my house showing adjacent church.
Part B of first photo couplet showing same scene sans lightning flash glare for contrasting perspective.
Part A of second photo couplet from same location.
Part B of second photo couplet.
Blurry image showing my first lightning bolt capture of the night.
Part A of third photo couplet. Lightning bolt is in this image but this image's camera setting washed out the image.
Part B of third photo couplet.
Another blurry lightning bolt... my second of the night.
Another lightning bolt image capture washed out due to camera setting.
My most decent lightning bolt capture of the night.
With the switch to more manual settings my camera captured more of the ominously beautiful cloudscape on the storm cell's undercarriage.
By this point dawn was manifesting itself through the clouds.
Note lightning bolt at right of base of church cross steeple.
Intersection of 16th Street and Vine Street which was formerly a creekbed and returned to that purpose overnight.
North side intersection of 12th Street and Vine Street. Note: deposition obscures the corner curb.
South side intersection of 12th Street and Vine Street. Note: debris deposition atop grass.
South side of intersection of 12th Street and Spring Street. Note: trash can was observed crossing intersection of 12th and Vine in current when Mark and I were on our way to check his place of business. On our return this was located in the street. All photos by Kim Patrick Noyes (all rights reserved).

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