Storm Photos: Gotta Work On Those Lightning-Fast Reflexes

Our weather here in Chicago has been pretty crummy lately, with most of the past few days interrupted by rain, including some pretty hefty thunderstorms. On the other hand, this has given me an opportunity to feed my latest obsession, which is trying to catch lightning, if not in a bottle, then at least with my camera.

I have managed, though patience and a bigger portion of dumb luck, to capture a few lightning bolts in still photos. But this dandy Sony NEX-3 camera I have also takes HD-quality video, so I decided during last night’s storms to see what I could catch with that. The results are pretty interesting.

The following are stills captured from the videos I took. Most of the lightning while I was at this was cloud to cloud…

… but I did manage to capture this bolt from the black…

The problem with capturing lightning is, of course, that it comes and is gone in a flash. In this sequence, the sky is dark…

…. then is totally ablaze with white light five one-hundredth of a second later…

…. but this faux-daylight is gone in one-hundredth of a second, replaced again in very short order with complete darkness.

I plan to keep working on this. This being Chicago weather, I am sure that I will have ample opportunities.

The Lake Shore View: On Little Cat Feet

I’ve gotten way behind on the Cooler on the Lakeshore Chicago vs. D.C. Weather Smackdown. But catching up gives me an excuse to repost this photo I took Tuesday night of fog creeping in off Lake Michigan.

The fog comes
on little cat feet.
It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.
– Carl Sandburg

After a much-too-chilly April, the temperature today finally crept back into the 80s. One more very warm day tomorrow, then a gradual decline into the 60s. But it looks like we may at last be escaping that meat-locker weather that made my first visits to Wrigley Field this year such an endurance test.

Here’s the Smackdown. Hopefully some prettier days to photograph soon, which will encourage me to keep up better. According to Weather Underground…

On Sunday, April 22, Chicago Midway reported a high of 51, a low of 42, and no rain. Washington Reagan National reported a high of 57, a low of 46 and 1.27 inches of rain. That’s a lot of rain! Point Chicago.

Monday, April 23: Chicago Midway reported a high of 58, a low of 36, and no rain. Washington Reagan National reported a high of 50, a low of 42 and .10 of an inch of rain. Point Chicago.

Tuesday, April 24: Chicago Midway reported a high of 64, a low of 38, and no rain. Washington Reagan National reported a high of 64, a low of 42 and no rain. Point Chicago, for good behavior.

Wednesday, April 25: Chicago Midway reported a high of 62, a low of 50, and .05 of an inch of rain. Washington Reagan National reported a high of 71, a low of 44 and no rain. Point D.C.

Last Thursday, Chicago Midway reported a high of 55, a low of 39, and no rain. Washington Reagan National reported a high of 65, a low of 56 and .03 of an inch of rain. Point D.C.

Friday, Chicago Midway reported a high of 52, a low of 39, and a trace of rain. Washington Reagan National reported a high of 64, a low of 48 and no rain. Point D.C.

Saturday, Chicago Midway reported a high of 50, a low of 44, and .20 of an inch of rain. Washington Reagan National reported a high of 56, a low of 45 and .12 of an inch of rain. Pretty crummy both places, but a little worse in Chicago.

Sunday, Chicago Midway reported a high of 58, a low of 44, and and .11 of an inch of rain. Washington Reagan National reported a high of 71, a low of 46 and .03 of an inch of rain. Point D.C.

Monday, Chicago Midway reported a high of 63, a low of 51, and .39 of an inch of rain. Washington Reagan National reported a high of 67, a low of 50 and no rain. Point D.C..

Tuesday, Chicago Midway reported a high of 64, a low of 52, and .32 of an inch of rain. Washington Reagan National reported a high of 84, a low of 60 and .15 of an inch of rain. Point D.C.

So a nice start for Chicago went south in a hurry. D.C. leads overall 150-121.

The Lake Shore View: Brewing Up Another Cold One

I’ve allowed the Cooler on the Lake Shore Chicago vs. D.C. Weather Smackdown to get a little dusty — perhaps it’s pollen — so I’ll take a sec here to get caught up. And to use this as an excuse to reprise the full moon photos of the other night.

The moon itself is a tad blurry in these photos because they were shot from our living room through the thick window glass necessitated by the gale-force winds we get with some regularity here on the 30th floor. But the moonlight bathing Lake Michigan is, I think, something to really behold.

Now you’ve already gotten a blogful of my whining about how frigid the wind chill was at Wrigley Field when I attended the Cubs’ Opening Day game there this past Thursday. So I thought I’d better prepare you for the fact that I have a ticket for another daytimer this Wednesday afternoon, when the Cubs are scheduled to play the Milwaukee Brewers. And the forecast high again is a robust 50 degrees.

At least they aren’t predicting the 30 mile per hour gusts that made Opening Day such a three-hours-in-a-meat-locker experience. At least they aren’t predicting that yet.

Here’s the rundown on about a week’s worth of weather…

On Saturday, March 31, Chicago O’Hare reported a high of 50, a low of 39 and no precipitation. Washington Reagan National reported a high of 64, a low of 48 and no rain. Point: D.C.

Last Sunday, Chicago O’Hare reported a high of 57, a low of 42 and .06 of an inch of  precipitation. Washington Reagan National reported a high of 64, a low of 47 and .07 of an inch of rain. A close call, but a slight edge for D.C.

On Monday, Chicago O’Hare reported a high of 62, a low of 47 and no precipitation. Washington Reagan National reported a high of 62, a low of 47 and .08 of an inch of rain. Dry weather is the tie-breaker for Chicago.

On Tuesday, Chicago O’Hare reported a high of 70, a low of 48 and no precipitation. Washington Reagan National reported a high of 73, a low of 42 and no rain. Close enough to call it for Chicago under the spring “well above normal” rule.

On Wednesday, Chicago Midway reported a high of 58, a low of 46 and no precipitation. Washington Reagan National reported a high of 76, a low of 53 and no rain. Obviously, a point for D.C.

On Thursday, the aforementioned Sheffield Avenue Freeze-Out at Wrigley, Chicago Midway reported a high of 49, a low of 38 and no precipitation.(At least it didn’t rain!) Washington Reagan National reported a high of 63, a low of 47 and no rain. Point D.C.

On Friday, Chicago Midway reported a high of 53, a low of 33 and no rain. Washington Reagan National reported a high of 62, a low of 42 and no rain. Point D.C.

And on Saturday, the weather bounced back smartly for the Cubs’ second game of the season (grrrrr…). Chicago O’Hare reported a high of 67, a low of 34 and a trace of  precipitation. Washington Reagan National reported a high of 65, a low of 42 and no rain. Point: Chicago.

A slightly better weather week in D.C. builds its overall lead to 135-112.

The Moon, The Lake and The Big 10 Basketball Tournament

Before I get to the subject at hand, which is the first day of the Big 10 men’s basketball tournament, a couple of photos. I hope this isn’t getting tiresome, but there just are days when I look out the window and see things that are breathtakingly beautiful. Tonight, with a clear sky and a full moon illuminating Lake Michigan, was one of those times.

Now, about the basketball… reviewing today’s games in the order they occurred:

Iowa 64, Illinois 61

The first-round matchup between these two teams was appropriate, because each of them defied the expectations held for them at the start of the season — Iowa in a positive sense, Illinois negatively.

Illinois was viewed as a solid middle-of-the-pack team with an outside chance of contending for the Big 10 championship and seemed to verify that early on, as the Illini won their first 10 games, started the conference schedule 11-2 and then won four of their first five Big 10 games, capped by a 79-74 home win over Ohio State, the team favored to win the league title.

Iowa, with a new coach (Fran McCaffrey) and a lack of experienced talent and leadership on the court, was widely viewed as a candidate for last place, and seemed to confirm that early on too. The Hawkeyes were 8-5 in a weak pre-conference schedule that included a loss by 16 points, at home yet, to the Campbell Fighting Camels of the Big South Conference. Iowa then started out the Big 10 season with three wins and six losses that included a 29-point whacking by Ohio State in Iowa City and a 34-point road loss at Michigan State.

But the end of the season was a dramatically different story for both teams. Illinois nosedived, losing 11 of its last 13, and one of its wins was a bizarre 42-41 mess of a home game against Michigan State in which Draymond Green, the Spartans’ star player, was sick and then was knocked out of the game by an injury. Iowa, on the other hand, was 5-4 down the stretch (despite losing at Illinois for the Illini’s only other win) — not spectacular, but enough to boost their Big 10 mark to 8-10 and a tie with Northwestern for 7th place in the now 12-team conference.

Illinois led today’s game, 31-27, at halftime, and led by as much as seven with a little less than 17 minutes to go. But then, as so often this season, the bottom dropped out. By the time a 25-10 Iowa run ended more than 10 minutes later, the Hawkeyes led by eight. Although Illinois teased its fans again by closing to within one on a 3-pointer with 20 seconds left, they could not come all the way back.

Though Illinois could still draw a bid to the second-tier National Invitational Tournament with its overall record of 17-16 (6-13 in the Big 10), it faces a major period of transition. It is widely presumed that the school will part way with Coach Bruce Weber, who had a decent nine-year run but never again approached the heights of his second year, when the Illini went 37-2 and played all the way to the NCAA final before losing a close game to University of North Carolina. Meyers Leonard, the 7-foot-1 sophomore center, has skills that are a work in progress, but his height has drawn interest from the NBA that could prompt him to leave early for the pros.

Iowa, led against Illinois by senior guard Matt Gaten’s 20 points, has to turn around quickly to play Friday against Michigan State, which is seeded number 1 in the tournament after tying for the regular season Big 10 championship with Ohio State and Michigan.

The Spartans are 24-7 overall and 13-5 in the league, but will be tested by a two-game end-of-season slump that saw them lose by 15 at Indiana and by 2 at home to Ohio State in a game that deprived MSU of an outright regular season title. And this will be Michigan State’s first full game without freshman starter Brenden Dawson, who suffered a knee injury in the Ohio State game that required surgery and has him sidelined for the post-season.

Indiana 75, Penn State 58

Nothing much to say in detail about this wholly expected outcome in a game between Indiana — a traditional power whose resurgence after several bad seasons produced an overall record of 25-7 and a Big 10 mark of 11-7 — and Penn State, a team that tied for last in the Big 10 with a 4-14 mark (12-20 overall).

Indiana was led in scoring by junior guard Jordan Hulls, who had 20 points, and freshman center Cody Zeller, who had 19. Zeller also was one of three Hoosiers who pulled down 10 rebounds. Junior guard Tim Frazier led Penn State with 26 points, but the load he had to carry was evident in the fact that he attempted 24 field goals, hitting nine.

Indiana, seeded fifth, moves on to play 4th-seeded Wisconsin (23-8 overall, 12-6 Big 10) in what appears to be a very even matchup. The teams played only once during the regular season, with Wisconsin scoring a 57-50 home win on Jan. 26.

Minnesota 75, Northwestern 68 (overtime)

Northwestern is one of the few Division I basketball programs that has never qualified for the NCAA tournament. After the Wildcats came close in recent years, this season began with high hopes that this would be THE year. But the loss by 7th-seeded Northwestern to #10th seeded Minnesota appeared to snuff out those already flickering hopes.

What has to be especially galling to Northwestern fans is how painfully close their team (now 18-14 on the season) came to being very, very good. Along with a signature 81-74 upset over Michigan State at home in January, Northwestern lost three times in overtime, including both their games with eventual Big 10 co-champion Michigan; came from way behind to tie eventual co-champion Ohio State in their next to last regular season game, only to lose by two at home; also lost at home by one against Illinois and by two against Purdue; and lost by just five at Indiana.

Minnesota, which now has an overall record of 20-13 despite going 7-12 in the Big 10, was led against Northwestern by guard Andre Hollins’ 25 points. The Golden Gophers now play #2 seed Michigan, which won the only regular season matchup between the team by 61-56 in Ann Arbor on New Year’s Day.

Northwestern was led by 24 points by sophomore guard JerShon Cobb, who was hindered by injuries for most of the season, and senior John Shurna, the school’s career scoring leader, who had 21 but was held without a field goal for the last 13 minutes of the game.

Purdue 79, Nebraska 61

Purdue was as inconsistent during the regular season as its 10-8 Big 10 record (6th in the conference) would suggest. But the Boilermakers still overmatched Nebraska, which finished its first basketball season as a member of the Big 10 tied for last place with Penn State at 4-14.

Purdue cinched this victory with runs of 15-0 in the first half and 28-13 in the second half. Five Purdue players finished in double figures. The Boilermakers move on to a much taller challenge in the second round against Ohio State — though they gave the Buckeyes all they could handle before dropping an 87-84 decision in Columbus Feb. 7, their only meeting in the regular season.

As tough as this season was for Nebraska, they now face the prospect of rebuilding. Guards Bo Spencer (22 points) and Toney McCray (13 points) , the Cornhuskers’ leading scorers as they were during the regular season, both are seniors.