Monday, September 05, 2011

Central Texas Fires

I'm a little shell shocked tonight. The images I've seen online from the Bastrop Fire are apocalyptical. Flames so high they make the cars look tiny. It is hard to grasp a fire that has burned 16 miles long and at least 4 miles wide, and leaped the Colorado River.

I've spent a lot of time over the years at Bastrop State Park. 2,000-3000 acres out of 6500 have burned. I took my Master Naturalist training at the Lost Pines Chapter. I have friends and family in the Bastrop area. One I've touched base with told me the fire was 2 miles from their home and they were packed and ready to go. I know that people I know are losing their homes tonight. While I grieve over the loses at Bastrop State Park and the potential loss of the historic CCC buildings there, that pales with the thought that early in the evening over 300 homes had burned. Homes with treasures, memorablia, family pictures, heirlooms, memories . . .

I also have friends in the Steiner Ranch area. I'm hoping their home is far enough to the east that their home will be spared. But tonight cannot be an easy night for them, not knowing what is happening to their home.

I have other friends that live in Spicewood, another area that has fires tonight.

I am grieving for what is lost, but praying that the winds are not as bad as forecast tomorrow and that God protects the firefighters as they battle through the night, that they are able to get these fires under control and . . . that God comfort and strengthen all those who have lost everything in these fires.

Tomorrow I'll try to post links to some of the more amazing footage and still photos that I've seen tonight.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Cape Pine Light

Cape Pine Light is at the southern most point of Newfoundland.  Located along the scenic Irish Loop, it is a 5 mile gravel road drive off the main road to get there, but we were rewarded by seeing the only caribou on this trip.  With gray cloudy skies, shooting for High Dynamic Range (HDR) was a must.  I shot multiple exposures and hoped that post processing would give me a useable image.  I used Photoshop to merge the images and then Photomatix to do the tone mapping.  I then used Topaz products to brighten the reds and make it a more vibrant image.

Cape Pine, built in 1851, is still a working lighthouse.  It flashes white every 5 seconds and is visible for 16 nautical miles.  Michigan Tech has been using it as a pollution research station with funding from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Science Foundation.

Just north of Cape Pine Line, we spent the night in Trepassey at a lovely hotel, the Trepassey Motel and Restaurant,  that included a dining room with views of the sea.  With friendly owners, good food and comfortable rooms, this would be a good place to spend several days and spend more time along this lovely coastline.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Ferryland Light

One of my favorite memories from my Newfoundland trip was my hike up to the Ferryland Lighthouse. While it was an uphill hike of 2 kilometers, it was pleasant.

But the views at the top were amazing. I had to walk alone because Henry's knee was not up to the 25 minute walk. When I got to the top, there were so many people who were taking advantage of the picnic lunches. It was hard to get a photo of the lighthouse without people in the frame. There were couples and families scattered on the green carpet of grass eating what looked to be wonderful picnic lunches. There were kids romping and exploring. A minke whale even surfaced near the shore close enough to hear the blow.

Ferryland Light was built in 1870 and manned until it was automated in 1970. After being abandoned for about 20 years, Lighthouse Picnics began serving picnic lunches and also began restoring the lighthouse. Today, the menu boasts food made fresh each day - molasses oatmeal bread, fresh made scones, orzo and fresh mint salad, and freshly squeezed lemonade. Coffee and specialty teas add to the charm. They use local and organic products as much as possible. The cold water shrimp, salmon and crab are harvested from Newfoundland waters.

The town of Ferryland is also interesting to visit. The Colony of Avalon was founded in 1621 by George Calvert who later became Lord Baltimore. The settlement ruins were undisturbed for centuries, but are now being excavated. Archaeologists have found over a million artifacts. An Interpretation Center and a walking tour give you a sense of what life in the 1600's was like.

Ferryland is about an hour's drive south of St. John.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

August 2011 Weather in Central Texas

A week ago tonight I had been watching the weather radar and knew we had storms in the area.  When I finally started hearing thunder at my house, I knew I should get out and try for some storm photos.  Henry joined me and began using his phone to track where the storm was. I was driving, heading in the direction I could see the flashes.  While the radar indicated storms between Taylor and Hutto, I saw no flashes so I kept heading east and south.

Just north of Elgin, I was seeing clear enough flashes that I found a place on a country road where I could set up my camera with my window mount and be at the right angle to attempt lightning photography from the safety of my car. 

I began to notice that I had a utility pole that was obstructing some of the bolts of lightning, so I began to move farther south past Elgin.

The amazing thing about these photos is that this lightning was really not close to where I was. I was just south of Elgin and these storms were at La Grange and Halletsville, many many miles away.  The tops of the clouds were very tall and the lightning strong enough to be seen from 50 miles away. 

 According to the local weathermen, August 2011 was the hottest August ever recorded at Camp Mabry as well as the hottest month ever with an average temperature of 91.6 beating the old reacord of 88.4 in the summer of 2009.  A new record for the consecutive number of 100 degree days at Camp Mabry was 27 compared with the old record of 21 days set from July 12-August 1, 2001.  As of August 31, 76 days of above 100 degrees.  To put this in perspective, an average summer in Austin yields only 13.5 days over 100 degrees.  Last but not least, August 28 tied the all time record high of 112 degrees at Camp Mabry. 

The worst drought in Texas history was between 1951 and 1956 when I was a small child. I do remember dust coming in the house under the closed windows.  Throughout the state,  October through June has been the driest 9 months on record.  We've had very little rain since then.

On my way chasing the storms, I did drive through enough rain to have to turn on my windshield wipers for maybe 5 minutes.  When we returned home, the ground was dry, but the deck was wet and the air at home gave the hint of the fragrance of rain. 

I've been telling people that I'm a believer . . . I believe that the weather WILL cool down this fall. I believe that it WILL rain again.  We have a cold front with possible rain this weekend.  It is sad  that I am thinking that 99 degrees as a high is going to feel so comfortable!  I've gotten a little used to these high temps, sweating everywhere I go.  But with the turning of the calendar page, I'm looking forward to the first hints of fall.