April 9th & 10th South Florida & Florida Keys Severe Weather Event
BY MARTIN KUCERA & FLORIDALIGHTNING.COM
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There was a slight chance of severe weather
for south Florida on Sunday, April 9th.
Early morning found me in Marathon, FL in
the middle Keys looking for action. Driving
around between the Seven Mile Bridge and
the northern end I knew there was a distant
storm on the horizon just south of the
island chain. Out of nowhere I caught a
glimpse of a funnel coming down about half
way down. Before getting to the water edge
for better view only a cloud line with spotty
showers remained. And a dog barking at me
from behind the fence. With a day heating in
progress I found myself at home again
planning what to do next. The NWS in Key
West was talking about a good chance of
strong storms in the Lower Keys. Miami
office was describing the chance of the front
interacting with the east coast seabreeze. I
deciced to play that option even though I
knew chasing around metropolitan areas of
the Florida east coast can be hell.
A rain shower remains after a more mature storm
briefly dropped a funnel in Lower Keys
A morning thunderstorm over the Florida straits.
Notice the outflow band surging outward and away
from the storm.
Well I targeted area around Key Biscayne to be able to do some shots with Miami
skyline included. No such luck. As the day progressed it became increasingly clear
there was a lot of junk in the sky but no storms. Large amounts of anvil debris from
storms farther away caused the surface heating to be lame to say the least. Only several
short lived storms formed over the east coast with just about ten lightning strikes total
and that was it. Also I was able to photograph a pronounced lowering with one of the
stronger cells for several minutes. Later of course, it got overtaken by rain and
dissipated. Radar observation encouraged me to move northward to the area of Fort
Lauderdale. A brief encounter of a severe warned thunderstorm swiftly brought the
day to an end. Or so I thought...
Miami skyline with only scattered cumulus cloud that
were aligned NE to SW due to the gusty SW winds.
Time to go north or just somewhere else.
Waiting for storm to fire up without success. The
milky sky is blocking the surface heating thus
preventing atmosphere to become more unstable.
This was just about the most we got out of the
drive to Miami....nice boats.
Departing storm in a dissipating stage over
Biscayne Bay, FL
The lowering I would not describe as a funnel.
Number of beach goers were talking "tornado".
Some lightning occurred with this thing.
Brushing the edge of a severe t-storm near
Ft.Lauderdale, FL. No hail since the storm was
weakening rapidly.
A closer look at the severe warned cell - now more from east of the storm. Several more nice lightning
strikes happened here and then the cell exited over the Atlantic ocean. Hard to chase in the city during
the peak traffic hours although this was not so bad being Sunday.
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Sleeping only three hours the night before I was really looking forward to go to bed early tonight.
Not seeing a lightning blink on the horizon all the way from Miami I was just about to go to
sleep...so tired I did not even want to look through the lousy pictures of the day. One last look at the
PC - and the radar showing a small shower getting bigger over the ocean just south of the Keys. I
went and looked out of the balcony and it even flashed a couple of times now. Well, it was worth the
"chase" given the time of the year and a lack of lightning nearby me for about five months. So I went.
When I got to the spot I quickly realized the show was over. Damn. Several long minutes later there
was a flash and a thunder on the other side of the islands. Well, the usual hide & seek I thought to
myself. It always happens like this. Than you move again to another spot and it starts lightning
somewhere else. It's those boundaries moving around. The cluster of showers on the other side did
just a tad better. I was even able to photograph several strikes and surprisingly a positive strike. First
one of the year. You could also tell mosquitoes were around and starting to bother already.
These are the first decent lightning strikes of the 2006 season here in the Florida Keys. A have a good
feeling about the upcoming storm season. Seems we are gonna have a lot of storms unlike the last year -
not speaking hurricanes here but regular summer photogenic storms. Last year seemed to be about
hurricanes only with abundance of rainy, cold weather.

When the show was over I went home, again. That was it I thought since these
storms  were pretty pathetic and it being the beginning of April, the overall outcome
of severe predictions earlier in the afternoon and all....
Suddenly I did not wanna sleep anymore. Sat at the computer looking through the
pictures I just took when I noticed a very bright flash just outside the window. A
loud crack of thunder followed shortly. I ran to see what's outside and there it is.....a
huge buildup right on the top of our apartment building. The thunderhead was so
close and so huge I am not gonna be able to fit it in the view field of the camera.
A couple minutes later I positioned myself on the end of our street to gain some
distance from the storm. It was electrified I had never seen anything quite like it
before. Lightning was frantically shooting upwards from the top of the cloud so
quickly I could not believe it. Just straight up into the clear midnight sky.
This thing was close. You could not tell whether this freak of a storm was gonna
strike at you next. I loved every minute of it. Just being there. And then the huge
one came down....circled the sky and hit the bay not far away. From then on the
storm started to move away to the north east. Couple minutes later it was all over.
I caught the big one right from the side of the
intersection near US1. Positively charged strike hit
the water of Florida Bay near Matecumbe Key.
Highly electrified storm cell over the Upper Keys.
The bolts were shooting straight up into to sky like
there was no tomorrow.
A small build-up over the near shore Atlantic
waters. I had no idea what was going to come from
these and how fast it's going to happen. Roughly
ten minutes later the show started.
The previous storm cells about half an hour later.
Now they are causing trouble over Florida Bay near
southern edge of Florida mainland. That's the
Everglades country.
The picture above on the right is what I saw just minutes before going home again.
Coming home now partially satisfied I looked at the radar screen and noticed
nothing unusual so I went about my business looking through more pictures some
of which made me quite happy. Suddenly another crack of thunder. This can not be
true I thought these cells must just explode out of nothing. I looked out of the
balcony and there right over the near shore waters was a cluster of thunderstorms.
The lightning activity with these was simply incredible. I do not ever remember
seeing anything like that in person. I remember seeing some record video of a
supercell lightning frequency where they counted some 300 strikes per minute or so.
This must not have been much behind. The tower were lit up constantly. Some CG
strikes were visible but there were mainly within the clouds discharges. I grabbed
my video camera and ran downstairs. The most intense show lasted for about
fifteen minutes and I even managed to get a couple stills.
The multicell storm just outside my window at about 3 am. One of the best lightning displays I have ever
seen and as of lightning frequency this one even outperformed the most giant supercells storms I observe
in "Tornado Alley" every spring and summer. Very spectacular for a spring Florida thunderstorm.
A short while later I noticed a single lonely beautiful cell to my north-east.... ones
like that are my dream. Completely surrounded by a night sky with stars all
around. This is all I ever wish for. There is one just like that I caught last year -
you can see it
here.
So I decided to go after it once again this incredible night. Just what you miss
when you are sleeping. Now it was quite clear this is going to be one of the great
nights when you get to stay up all night and see the sunrise in the morning.
Now it is not a big deal - I love it actually but once in storm season it is not easy
anymore. If you wanna stay up all night it's great, then you see the sun come up
and many times cloud lines along with it and a chance for waterspouts. That is
when I sometimes go without sleep for endless hours as long as there is
something that makes it worth it. Then again it is how you see it.
So I went after the little cell and got to a problem because it was aligned directly
over the highway. Well it was 4:30 am and no time to mess around. So I climbed
over the little sea wall and waded into the water waist deep with a tripoded
camera in my hand. There were some rocks around so I based the setup on top of
them. Much better and no more annoying car lights passing by.
This is how it all happened. A year ago I was woken up by a loud cracking
thunder at 5 am. So I got my stuff and went to the same location. It was a low
tide so I thought why not climb over the sea wall and hop on those boulders so I
can get a better angle. So I did but they were slippery and next thing you know I
am standing waist deep in the muddy water still holding the camera unscratched.
Lightning was cracking directly over my head and I could care less. I know it
might sound weird but I actually felt somehow safer in the water. But it does not
matter. This time around the whole experience was quite similar and I know I'd
do it again. The pictures made me quite happy.
Same thunderstorm as the two pics above but from
closer vantage point next to the Gulf of Mexico
waters. Lightning photographer's dream a cell like
this with a clear sky all around. I just still can not
figure out whether I like the electricity poles or not.
Still the one but from the other side of the brush.
Yeah the brush kinda was in a way therefore the
"in the water photography" you can see in the  
photograph beloow. Too may cars passing by here
as well to be able to get some lightning shots.
Trying to make some sense out of the cars here
anyway. The highway was quite busy for 4 am on
Monday morning. The storm is over Tavernier, FL
right now pounding the are with small hail and
excessive lightning strikes.
Standing up to my waist in the water here. Much
better angle. Don't get me wrong you may think I
am nuts but it is all just a passion. After so many
storms you've gotta look for new way to shoot
lightning. I am buying a kayak next week to be able
to paddle to nearby lonely  islands to get away
from all the light pollution.
Negatively charged lightning strike over the Atlantic
ocean. Notice the tiny lighthouse close to the right
bolt. These bolts were huge and blinding.
The lighthouse is called Alligator Reef Lighthouse
and is just 3  miles SE of Islamorada, FL.
The three lightning image above left are cropped to be able to show a close-up of lightning bolts within the
storm. These cells had extreme amounts of energy contained within. Unfortunately not a whole lot of
positive strikes occurred with these since their vertical development was limited. Otherwise they would
form a nice anvil from which there would be nice amount of huge bolts coming down the clear sky.
Shortly after the previous single cell thunderstorm got to far away to remain interesting I turned my
attention to the ocean side of the Florida Keys where the show continued until after sunrise hours. Pretty
soon all horizon was covered with scattered storm and things weren't that interesting anymore. Above all I
love to track a single cell thunderstorms. Scattered activity on the horizon leads to scattered attention and
the overall experience becomes sort of confusing.
Leading edge of another strong thunderstorm that
formed shortly before sunrise over Florida Bay.
High sensitivity of my digital camera provided for
this detailed shot. Need one just like this with a
night time waterspout sticking down from it.
Indian Key and a lightning bolt shortly before
sunrise.
The thunderstorm activity did not stop with the sun coming up. The storms
kept forming for anther whole day while I was sleeping. The conditions got
quite bad though during the day - cold weather, gusty winds and generally
scattered ugly looking storms that I decided to pass on. Monday night sunset
was quite spectacular though with many storms still forming in the area.
See the pictures bellow.


All Images & Text
(c) 2006
www.FloridaLightning.com