The Lathe of Heaven: Inside a Super Cell

I have been tied up in sailing and preperation for my first cross Lake race as well as all the other too too fleeting summer pastimes that make life along Lake Michigan sweet. I’m posting now because of last night’s amazing super cell that blew through the Great Lakes.

Below is a horizontal rotating cloud. I had thought it was a classic, somewhat rare, roll cloud but it behaved and looked more like a giant corkscrew:

This photo shows that against a breathtaking backdrop of an ominous super cell storm front people were more concerned with the corkscrew roll cloud developing over my head:


I feel these two clouds equal one half of a photo; one photo showing the sky directly overhead and the other photo showing the Western portion of the sky as well as people concerned with what was going on directly overhead. (Not the best shot but the shot that best tells the story.)

These clouds were moving rapidly with formations rapidly changing. This last shot, my favorite, is facing south as that remarkable roll cloud corkscrew formation headed down towards Grand Haven. I caught the inside of it as the lightning storm to the North cleared the dunes of sky watchers:

30 thoughts on “The Lathe of Heaven: Inside a Super Cell

    • I’ve helped turn the boat around for far less spectacular formations. These are best seen over the transom as you are boogying on in to some port. I feel I am not adept enough to deal with such things. I am learning. I was racing on a boat last summer when a gale rose up and knocked us flat to the water….twice. We almost lost the guy that flies the chute. He went overboard head first and someone, I think it was the pit guy, a small, powerful young man training to be a Fireman/EMT who grabbed his belt. I was hanging on to the port rail with my body draped across the cabin with my toes dragging in the water coming over the starboard rail. Exciting stuff. I was planning ways to fall clear of the boat and lines but I knew someone would release a line and the boom would swing around and the boat would right itself. It did. It was a powerful lesson for me for how quickly things can go south in a storm.

      There were some scary shots posted on social media from working freighters stuck out on the Great Lakes as this thing blew in. They see far worse in those 3 Day Gales of November. I should dig up some of the links and post them in these comments.

      Short answer for me would I sail? No, I am not trained well enough.

      • Wow! Those are surprising experiences to hear about, as I think of lakes as placid. Evidently not so your Michigan. I think you’re making the right choice.

      • Oh, I love and am loyal to Lake Michigan but I also know she can easily reach out, kill me then swallow me up and never shed a tear. Every year she claims vacationing swimmers who think of her as a gentle giant. Over the years many, many ships have gone down in her high seas.

    • Yes it is. There would be so many more photos except for my respect of lightning. There was such a high wind and blowing sand. A tripod would have made a nice lightning rod..

    • Somewhere I have a so-so snapshot of a roll cloud that came up off of Lake Michigan so fast by the time I quickly found a place to park, pulled over, got my camera out, I didn’t have time to set it correctly and the wind made stabilization near impossible. I should dig it out. Roll clouds are odd.

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