The windy, rainy day overall put me in an autumn mood, and I thought I’d take video of Lake Michigan’s wave action. Instead, I was struck by this unexpected rainbow — the sun wasn’t out.
After months of abnormally dry to severe drought conditions, Chicago had a near record “rainfall event” the weekend of July 1–2, especially on Sunday.
To me, it seemed like a normal rain, but I don’t have a personal basement to worry about. I gave up any thought of outdoor activities and stuck to reading, TV, etc. I figured I’d be grateful if this rain, plus a few others that preceded it, would put a dent in the severe drought conditions.
As of July 11, Chicago was still abnormally dry, but look at the difference.
June 10, 2023:
Same area, July 9, 2023, a little less than a month later:
When I noticed the orange light on my weather radio flashing the evening of July 12, I was hoping for beach hazards or at worst a flash flood watch, but, no, it was a tornado watch. As the sky got darker, it flipped to the red light — tornado warning. Not long after that, the sirens started — an eerie sound in the eerie premature twilight.
Over the next hour or so I saw several reports of tornadoes, starting with Summit in the southwest suburbs. Then it seemed like they were everywhere — southwest, west, north.
The sky brightened for a moment, then darkened, then brightened again just as another brief deluge descended. I looked — yes, there was a rainbow (and a very faint second mirror image rainbow). It faded, then reappeared, or maybe it was a second one in a similar spot. The second, with a faint mirror image like the first, was the full arch, which I couldn’t capture from my window.
It faded as blue sky appeared to the east, then pink from the setting sun tinged the clouds that had piled up.
August 29, 2021
J found out Smith Bros. Coffee in Port Washington, Wisconsin, would be closed permanently after Labor Day weekend. On Sunday we took a quick trip to stop there and a few other places.
It was a good day for me to be in an air-conditioned car — the car thermometer read 97ºF at the Lake Forest Oasis, where the sky was sunny and the atmosphere heavy and oppressive with heat and humidity.
As we progressed northward I noticed enough dark clouds gathering to obscure the sun. Near Milwaukee the skies opened up, accompanied by some lightning and thunder. I’m not sure how long the bad spell lasted — maybe 20 minutes. By the end of it, the temperature had dipped to about 78ºF — that’s more like it.
I found a slightly different route into town that took us past Lion’s Den Gorge Nature Preserve. It’s now on my list.
Our first stop was Bernie’s Fine Meats, which is the source not only of deliciously addictive but unhealthful garlic summer sausage, but also many unhealthful European sweets. I spent well over $100 there. It’s showing in the waistline I no longer have.
Smith Bros. is across the street, part of the Duluth Trading store, which will expand into the Smith Bros. space when it closes. I ordered an iced coffee and sandwiches to go, and picked up coffee beans and an insulated travel mug. Of course I posed with the fisherman sculpture which was installed in 2020. It more or less replicates the sign on the roof, down to the fish on the man’s back, but without the man’s pipe. Our health-conscious times!
Reservations at Twisted Willow were not to be had, so we ordered food and drove around until it was ready to be picked up, about 40 minutes. We re-found the light station, but more important we found Port Washington has extensive lakefront parks. This was a good time to find them because sky was still dramatic from the on-and-off thunderstorms in the area. We decided to return with dinner and use one of the many picnic tables.
After we ate the salad portion of dinner in a strong breeze, during which another rainbow appeared, J took a brief detour toward Belgium and Harrington Beach State Park, home to one of my favorite views on County Road D — a single tree by the side of the road that leads to a stop sign and Lake Michigan. Fail to stop at your peril.
On the way back to the interstate I noticed the sky that had produced drama and rainbows earlier now gave a fire-breathing dragon cloud. What a great way to end a great day.
August 29, 2021
Steelworkers Park doesn’t seem to get much traffic, but on this day a family was having a picnic not far from the sculpture. It turned out to be Roman Villarreal, the artist. A former steelworker from a young age, he posed with his work.
I realized Mr. Villarreal had been behind this gem at Big Marsh Park.
Back to Steelworkers Park: Some of the old infrastructure has been repurposed into a climbing wall.
After a summer storm on the way back, a rainbow appeared, mandating a stop at Jackson Park near La Rabida Children’s Hospital.
This rainbow appeared only eight minutes after I took a photo of the double rainbow. The entire sky, including color, had changed that fast.
The plan was to go to Messenger Woods Nature Preserve again, but a slew of tornado and thunderstorm watches and warnings put me off. I stayed home, which let me witness this.
The world could use a bit of luck. Or hope.
I’ve retired my old Lake Michigan moods post and am replacing it with this slightly newer model that may be updated from time to time. These photos were taken by an assortment of iPhones, iPads, and cameras over the years, not always at a high resolution. In some cases I haven’t found the originals. They’re mostly from my living room window, with a few from my office window and even fewer taken at other places, like Michigan City, Indiana.
They illustrate the many moods of the only Great Lake that runs north-south, with Indiana and Michigan to the east and Illinois and Wisconsin to the west. The clouds range from bright and fluffy to dark and menacing with everything in between, including odd mixtures of types. There are fog monsters and rainbows. There’s lightning caught with a webcam. There’s sea smoke that rises on the coldest days (“Lake Michigan steams like a young man’s dreams,” writes the legendary Gordon Lightfoot). There are ice and snow. There are blues, purples, pinks, greens, oranges, and nearly every color of the rainbow — and I’m not even focusing on sunrise photos (that’ll be another set).
There’s calm. And sometimes there’s calm followed by terror, like the June 30, 2011, hail of hail that devastated the Garfield Conservatory and left me a gelatinous mess.