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Coveting the Clouds
Strong storms possible today

Andrew Freedman @ 10:01 AM

I'm writing this from Chicago's Midway Airport on Friday night, where the sky has erupted into chaos. The clouds appear out for revenge. According to the crawl on the airport TV, there is a tornado warning for the neighboring county, and a severe thunderstorm warning for the airport and vicinity, or the reverse, yet no one here has taken protective cover.

These clouds demand attention, and I am delighted.

Jason Samenow's Sunday Forecast

Forecast Confidence: HighThunderstorms likely. A strong cold front with a history of producing severe weather will move through the area today. Expect mostly cloudy skies, with occasional sunshine breaking through. There is a 60% chance of thunderstorms which could produce strong winds between 4 and 8pm today. High temperatures will be in the low 80s. Overnight, we'll see gradual clearing and cooler temps -- with lows 53-58 (suburbs to city).

Check back tomorrow for the complete week ahead forecast.

This is one of the many moments when I'm reminded that I'm not normal. Passengers are flocking to the gate area windows overlooking the tarmac, fearful of what will happen once they're airborne, or looking at their watches and growing angry at the weather-related delays to come. I'm smiling, eating some pasta salad, as the "whale's mouth" of the gust front sweeps over the tiny airfield, swinging the wind sock around to the West. The scud associated with the rain core are in a feeding frenzy, like a hungry school of piranhas, and I can't get enough of it.

"Look at that black ass cloud," exclaims a heavy set man with a Dell laptop perched near his chest. "Man it's dark out there," says another. Some passengers race by the windows, never looking out to spot the cloud to ground lightning strike near the landing path of a frightened Southwest 737. "Don't ya love it?" I want to say. "Isn't this amazing?" But I know I'm not "normal," whatever that is. I'm a weather geek, and this isn't the time nor the place to reveal that. I fantasize about spotting a wall cloud and warning everyone to retreat to an interior part of the terminal, but it looks like the core of the storm is only sideswiping Midway.

I'm reminded of something that a former weather observer on Mount Washington said to me during my summit internship there in 2005. "After this," he said of his experience as an observer, "I never looked at clouds the same way again." I think that's true of most weather geeks in general, that we don't look at clouds as if they resemble people we know or at how "pretty" they are.

Image taken last summer from Mt. Washington's summit

We look at them as living organisms, as changeable harbingers of weather to come, as companions.

During my windswept New Hampshire summer I spent an hour on the Southeast side of the peak watching the smallest cloud in history coalesce before me as formerly clear air was forced up and over the summit. As the air cooled it condensed, resulting in a speck of a cloud that likely was only visible to me. As soon as the air began descending on the other side of the peak, the cloud returned to clear water vapor. This ocurred moment by moment over the course of the pre-dinner hour as the summit settled into its summertime slumber, resting after an onslaught of tourists. The sun was setting, causing the lakes dotting New Hampshire below to glow out to the horizon. I watched that cloud put on its sly show for me and smiled, laughed even, at its playfullness.

Even today I feel cheated when looking at cloud from the ground, and relish that moment in flight when the aircraft pops out of a low stratocumulus layer or flies close to a cumulus buildup. I like to be close to my friends.

Today's storm seems to have missed us to the North, large raindrops hit the airport windows as a United Embraer regional jet begins to board. The sun is now shining through a decidedly mixed sky to the west, where the maelstrom lurked only ten minutes ago.

To quote a fortune cookie I have on my desk at home: "The weather is wonderful."

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