Lake Michigan


Living along the West Michigan Lake Michigan shoreline I tend to watch the weather for changes. Something like a sailor, just with both feet firmly planted on the shoreline. When storms are in the forecast I keep an eye on radar throughout the day in the event something crops up. On Sunday evening July 26, 2020 that’s just what happened. Shelf clouds are fun to watch form on the horizon and they develop a menacing look as they approach and draw closer.  My experience has been most of the shelf clouds I have captured on Pere Marquette beach in Muskegon Michigan will develop and move in from either the North or the West.

Incoming Storm Shelf Cloud

A ridge of menacing clouds starts to form on the horizon and as it approaches the air temperature changes. The cloud morphs from a grey line on the horizon to a “monster” white on the top and dark on the bottom as it “rolls” in. A shelf cloud is a low-hanging, well-defined, wedge-shaped formation that occurs along the leading edge of the gust ushering in a thunderstorm. Updrafts feed warm, moist air into the thunderstorm to provide it with the energy it needs to survive. The day this shelf cloud formed the beach was packed as daytime temperatures were near 90 with high dew points.

Incoming Shelf Cloud

The downdraft consists of dense, rain-cooled air that sinks to the surface underneath a thunderstorm. The air from a downdraft pools up at the surface beneath the storm in what’s known as a cold pool and tilts the updraft letting the storm take shape and begin to move dramatically over the lake. As the outflow boundary or gust front begins to lead and pull the thunderstorm south it is ingesting warm, moist air and the results are dramatic. As the updraft’s warm, moist air rises up along the outflow boundary, it cools and condenses into a shelf cloud perfect for picture taking.

Passing overhead
Look at this boat trying to outrun the storm
Lake Michigan

Eye of the Storm

Went for a walk along the Lake Michigan shoreline as the sun was coming up in the east. I like Sunday mornings. To my west however were the gathering clouds of an impending storm.

Visual acuity is needed during times of crisis. 20/20 vision is your ability to at a distance of 20 feet see clearly what should normally be seen at that distance. “2020 vision” is our ability to maintain perspective, reasoning and balance when we couldn’t see what was coming next. 2020 vision became the search for pellucid thought in a year when events were far from normal. Instead of running I firmly planted my feet in the sand and absorbed the moment. I stood there as the storm swept over me capturing its anger with my camera. Don’t waste a crisis. Learn from it.


Eye of the storm

So to those who are disenchanted

The noise can be somewhat slanted

Seek out your roots

And harvest the fruits

When your feet are firmly planted. 

Storm passes

And just like that…..the storm passes. Exit stage left. 


May the Forest be with you

Trees are a part of our lives, we often pass them by without notice, a familiar forgotten part of our daily surroundings. I was reflecting on how trees provide color, shade, oxygen, a home for wildlife, beauty, food, fuel and mark the seasons of our lives. Trees also teach us valuable lessons of diversity and perseverance and value.
Every year it seems we experience a storm event where trees in our neighborhoods remind us of their presence succumbing to a wind or ice event and causing damage. It is a natural physical reminder of “Entropy” in our lives. The definition of Entropy…..a lack of order or predictability; gradual decline into disorder. We all deal with entropy in our lives, but prefer to ignore decline or deterioration. We work to move forward because you are either moving forward or backwards, not much stays the same and certainly not for long. When it comes to entropy we grow when we:
1) Recognize it as reality.
2) Develop the skill to identify it and resist apathy and complacency.
3) Understand entropy applies not only to the physical but mental too…our attitudes and relationships.
4) Most importantly, developing a clear understanding of what you can manage. Entropy dictates the need to manage what and how much we can manage in our realm.
Recently a major wind event felled a number of trees in our neighborhoods. When they crashed it was a good reminder of necessary maintenance, planning and development to battle the ever present effects of entropy.

This tree completely uprooted in the storm. Notice the taper and root collar were strong but the lateral roots were unable to support the tree
This tree completely uprooted in the storm. Notice the taper and root collar were strong but the lateral roots were unable to support the tree

For example, to have strong trunks, tree trunks should be tapered from top to bottom. Trees develop tapered trunks from two major events in their lives: trunks swaying back and forth in the wind and the presence of branches with leaves all along the trunk. These lessons are learned early in the life of a tree and its development. Without it they won’t be able to support the canopy of the tree when the storms of life arrive. It is just like humans, the most intelligent have the ability to hold two opposing views in their mind and still be able to function.
The wind event reminded us of the importance of a tree’s root collar. It is the area where the roots join the main stem or trunk. At the base of the tree there is a “flare” leading to the major roots. The root collar is part of the tree’s trunk. Unlike roots, the trunk is not specialized to resist constant soil moisture. If the tree is planted originally too deep or has soil or mulch mounded against the root collar and bark that is not accustomed to being wet, we will eventually see decline and ultimately failure of the tree at some point. Root collar from the start makes a difference.

Example of the effects of Windthrow and failure of lateral roots
Example of the effects of Windthrow and failure of lateral roots
Root collar of the tree and base of the overall taper of the tree
Root collar of the tree and base of the overall taper of the tree

Strong root collars still experienced a condition called wind throw because support from the lateral roots was diminished due to surrounding driveways, walks, streets or other factors diminishing a stable lateral root system. We saw the entire tree roots and all lift out of the ground and topple over.

Finally most people do not think of pruning. “Pruning” can be a good thing in our personal lives. A setback can help us re-evaluate and reset to move forward. A tree, even a large established tree benefits from pruning. Some of the trees that went over in the storm had been neglected for years. Pruning of trees is a safety issue, a tree health issue and finally is done for aesthetics. Winter is a great time for pruning of deciduous trees and strengthens and improves them for future growth.

Lessons can be learned from the storms of life. May the forest be with you.