Cloudy with a chance…

 

By Jared Reed, Saratoga Lake Boat Steward

On the water it’s easy to lose track of time and get so caught up having fun that you end up getting caught in a storm. Summer often brings with it sudden thunderstorms, and in just a few moments, a bright sunny day can become a dark rainy one. There is often poor cellphone reception on the water, and many boaters forget to bring a radio, or any sort of device that may warn them of impending storms.

One easy way to prevent this, is to learn how to read the sky… in particular, clouds. There are many different types of clouds, but which clouds will ruin your day? Let’s look at a couple key players:

cloud diagram

Fair Weather Clouds:
Cirrocumulus– Look like lines in the sand, or ripples on a lake
Altocumulus – bright white puffy cotton clouds
Cumulus – Large, white, and fluffy
Cirrus – high altitude, look like feathers, often called “mane tale” for resembling a horse’s tail

All of these clouds indicate good weather, and are useful to provide some shade on a hot sunny day! However, Cumulus – the large fluffy clouds- can develop into heavy rains. Watch to make sure it does not grow bigger, or develop more ‘heads’ as that can indicate storms.

Poor Weather Clouds:

Cumulonimbus – characterized by the flat ‘anvil’ top. These are thunder clouds and bring rough weather. They often appear dark grey due to the amount of water vapor saturated within the cloud, preventing sunlight from illuminating it. Watch for ‘tall’ clouds.
Stratus – low clouds, resembling fog, often bring rain with them
Cumulus – Listed twice, these clouds can quickly develop into rain storms, even on a fair weather day.

Storms are often immediately preceded by a drastic drop in temperature, a sudden shift in the winds, and a sudden strong cent (known as petrichor). If you think there is a storm approaching, start heading to the dock immediately, as storms are particularly dangerous on open waters. If you are caught on the water during a storm, immediately put on a life jacket, and immediately head towards the dock. If on a fishing skiff or speedboat, or can otherwise cannot make it to land, drop anchor, remove all metal jewelry, and get low in the center of the boat – lighting will strike the highest point. Do not go in the water and stow the rod and reel. Thunderstorms typically do not last longer than 30minutes.

Stay safe… and avoid boating during inclement weather!

 

Sources:
http://sectionhiker.com/predicting-the-weather-using-clouds/
http://www.boatingmag.com/surviving-lightning-strikes-while-boating

 

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