PhotographyScienceScience & Nature

Crazy Clouds Captured!

Note: This photo is unaltered. This is exactly how the clouds looked when I took this picture.

Almost every nightmare I have is somehow related to the sky. Whether it involves war, airplanes, aliens, or a massive storm out to destroy us all, the sky is always ominous and has such a frightening look to it that it sticks in my craw as the most memorable part of the nightmare.

I was born in Iowa, grew up in Kansas, and now live in North Texas. Living my whole life in Tornado Alley, I guess it’s no surprise that I dream about bad weather. At least in Iowa and Kansas we had a basement to retreat to when tornadoes were brewing. Most houses in Texas have no basements, apparently due to the expanding and contracting clay in the soil, so we have to seek shelter in our central bathroom. “Wake up, kids, deadly swirling winds are coming this way! But don’t worry, they probably won’t rip the roof off and hurt us. Here, let’s all hide in the bathtub.”

I’ve always had a certain fear of bad weather, perhaps rightfully so:

  • When I was a kid there was a metal chain that was on our neighbor’s tree, a tree that happened to be touching the roof my family’s house. When lightning struck the chain on the tree, it traveled through the branches and hit our house. As the strike hit it caused a power outage in our home and blasted a hole in the wall of the room we happened to be sitting in at the time.
  • Just a few years ago lighting struck our home and our internet antenna got a direct hit. It was terrifying because it happened so fast and sounded like two gunshots, followed by the buzzing of blown out speakers, smoke, and the smell of fried electronics. I didn’t even know a thunderstorm was approaching, so it took me by complete surprise.
  • Back in 1993, my grandma lost her home and many precious items due to The Great Flood of ’93. I remember seeing the aftermath of what the flood had done to her home. It was terribly sad knowing that I would never go back there again.
  • When Rob and I lived in our first home, we had a terrible freezing rain in Kansas that brought down countless trees, including one which ripped the power line off our house, leaving us without power for almost a week during a freeze.

But the weather I fear most has to be tornadoes. I have a memory of seeing a tornado, probably from when I was around 4 years old. We were living in Iowa, and hiding in the basement during a tornado warning. I looked out of the basement window and could see the tornado in the distance, but it did not hit our house. The only other part of the story that I remember is that we were eating Chicken-In-a-Biscuit crackers. The memory is so specific that I think it’s true, but then again I was 4, probably scared out of my wits, and could have easily imagined seeing the tornado. Recently, a year or so ago, my daughters and I witnessed swirling clouds over our house, only to have a tornado form a few miles away. It can be pretty scary realizing that there is nothing you can do to stop it; if a tornado hits, you just have to sit in your hidey-hole and wait it out.

My mom was seriously injured by an F5 tornado when she was 5 years old. It tore right through her neighborhood, ripping houses to shreds. Her father searched the wreckage of what was left of their house and found her under some debris. Her story always strengthens my resolve in the human spirit but also puts into perspective the carnage that weather can cause.

When I was looking through photos I’ve taken throughout the years, I stumbled across these pictures and decided to share them and write this post. It was May 21, 2008. I looked outside my kitchen window and, upon seeing the clouds, I was completely flabbergasted. I had never in my life seen clouds like this, and haven’t again since. They were both mesmerizing and eerie. They reminded me of my dreams or a movie where something horrific is about to happen. I had to go outside and capture the phenomenon. I must admit my stomach was in a bit of a knot as I observed these wavy, smooth clouds.

Note: I didn’t edit this photo. This is exactly how the clouds looked when I stepped outside.

Searching through the internet back in 2008 led me down some dead-end paths and I was unable to find out any information about these types of clouds, and now I know why! In 2008 there had not been much discussion about them because they were so rare, but things have picked up since. These are Undulatus Asperatus. The World Meteorological Organization does not officially recognize this specific cloud classification as of yet, but it is believed by some experts that it should have official classification. The Cloud Appreciation Society has been pushing for its approval since 2009 and it may end up being the first new cloud to be “discovered” in the last 62 years.

The clouds themselves are pretty neat and I wanted to show you what they truly looked like when they occurred, and so I did that, but I also wanted to turn these clouds into what I deem as nightmare scenarios because…why the hell not?

All the following photos have been edited with filters or had their contrast fiddled with or maybe were lightened or adjustments were made via other super-secret photo editing techniques I have up my sleeve. Have Photoshop – Will Edit.

I was always told that a greenish-hued sky signifies a tornado will develop, though I’ve seen plenty of these green skies and no tornadoes following them.
It’s like another world.
This isn’t nightmarish, per se, more like cotton-candyish.
Where’s Toto, Dorothy?
It’s like something is trying to burst forth from the sky!
Hell is other clouds.
Black and White Clouds
This almost looks like water.

I look back on these photos and am able to recognize their majesty, but at the time they sure were scary. I’m glad that I had the wits about me to capture these elusive and awesome Undulatus Asperatus. My oldest daughter, Zoë, remembers the day too. She said, “It was as if the sky had become an ocean.” I couldn’t have said it better.

Gigi Chickee

All photos are taken by me, Gigi Chickee, unless otherwise noted. Photography Correspondent here at Mad Art Lab. Wife to my gorgeous husband, Rob. Mother to my four girls. Proud Secular Homeschooler. Photographer when the occasion arises. Seamstress in training. Skeptic always. Follow me and my musings on Twitter: @gigichickee

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  1. These ARE other-worldly, how cool! And how weird to think that new cloud types are still being discovered… Weather feels like it’s in a category of things that have just always BEEN; this is a nice reminder of how everything around us is in a constant state of flux, on one time scale or another.

  2. Very cool. I have some wavy North Texas cloud photos myself, though not as severe and I can’t remember where I might have stored them.

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