JANUARY 7, 2011 12:42PM

A Prairie Storm

Rate: 70 Flag

One of my pastimes is exploring back-country gravel roads, and my favorite gravel road destination is the Flint Hills region of east-central Kansas.


I go there for views like this, where wildflowers stretch from horizon to horizon and the only sound is the wind through the grass. This landscape once covered the center of North America, from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, but the only place you can see it today is the Flint Hills.


I like the contrast between blue sky and emerald grasses, so I try to time my trips to coincide with fair weather.  Sometimes though the weather doesn't cooperate. Below is a series of photographs taken one stormy morning a couple years ago. Each can be viewed in larger format by clicking on it.  




Though it was a warm day it was cloudy and threatening rain by the time I got off the highway and onto the back roads.  Overcast skies can sometimes make photography a waste of time, but on occasion they actually intensify the colors.


Horses in a flowery pasture.


About the time I turned onto this westbound road the sky started getting weird.


There was thunder and lightning off to the north.



To the northwest an odd, blue-edged line of clouds rolled over the horizon.


The strange formation moved rapidly south; here it's a mile or so away.


Just as the squall line crossed the road to my west a strong wind kicked up and the temperature began falling rapidly.


It was moving fast.


I'd never seen a cloud this color before.


The wind, gusting to sixty miles an hour or more by now, made it difficult to hold my camera steady.


As the blue cloud rolled south the landscape ahead of it took on a reddish glow.  I don't know why.


Cobalt sky.


Looking due south as the light goes away.


Blackness. The wind was shrieking and lightning was striking to the north, east and west, and as you can see in this shot my camera had raindrops on the lens. Time to go.


Veils of rain.


Road becomes stream.


The rain was heavy but it didn't last long. Here, clouds begin lifting over a flooded field. 


An upland plover seems pleased the storm is over.


Freshly showered echinacea.


These white primrose seem lit from within.


It was an interesting morning.  Rain or shine, clear skies or stormy, there are always more back roads to explore.





Note: I previously posted some of these photographs in 2009 under the title Blue Cloud Sequence. That post has since been deleted. All images ©2011 by Nanatehay.


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i love going along on these trips to the flint hills, jeff. those sudden midwest storms are like nothing we have on the west coast, and that 'cobalt sky' photo is breathtaking.
I love it! This is such an alien landscape to me, someone who's never been west of the Mississippi. But it is so compelling - all that open space and open sky.
Beautiful. The color of the cloud was amazing. Thank you for sharing these.
Those skies looked ominous and forboding... Very beautiful photoessay.. You keep surprising me..

Rated for pretty flowers....
Those strange cloud formations raised my hackles. I honestly thought you were going to get spun off to Munchkinland you were so close!
*waves* hi nannaneener!

i never thought i would miss the flat landscapes of the midwest, but these pics (which are amazingly done) sorta made me long for it.
I don't know if there is anything quite so beautiful as grasslands. Thanks for sharing.
That is a nice one, especially watching the snow come in.
This was wonderful. All I ever see of Kansas is when i go through there once a year on a bus and the show storm trackers.
Rated with hugs
Great work, Nana. Good for you having the presence of mind to a) take the shots and b) then get the hell into your vehicle. As a comedian once said, it's not *that* the wind is blowing, it's *what* the wind is blowing.

Up here, we know to seek shelter fast when the sky turns green. Nature is a formidable opponent.
Better watch out or you won't be in Kansas anymore!
Nice. The meadow pictures make me wish I could snooze in that grass. The storm pics are impressive, cobalt stopping short of that greenish cast that says "run for cover!"
I love it no matter where the pictures are when folks like you Nana are nice enough to show me around.
Each time I am drawn to visit from the pics.
Ty Nana. Awesome and revealing....
Really wonderful photos.

Sometimes I'm nostalgic for the prairies, where you can see the weather coming, and where you appreciate the long landscape...and the close-up details.

All in all, I prefer living in the middle-range of trees and hills and stuff...but when I go back to Alberta, I'm 'home' (don't want to stay home, tho.)

Gorgeous photos...
Ah, what a nice treat today! I've been in the office all day, all week, and haven't seen enough sky lately. That storm would have been awesome to see, blue clouds and all.
Auntie Em Auntie Em...

These are terrific Nana!

I noticed that even though your caption said "Time to go", you didn't take your own advice and stayed on to finish a great series of photographs. Impressive.
I miss that landscape so much. Thanks for sharing. Someday I'll come home and ask for a tour.
Really nice photography. Good job.
It smells like mint, RW. Numerous members of the mint family are prairie natives, for instance various speces of monarda (bee balm). We also have sage, though not the big rangy sagebrush they have out in the Great Basin. Mint and sage and flint and earth; that's the smell.

Mission, I've got a standing invitation to all my OS friends to take them on a tour of the Flint Hills if they make it out this way. To me it's as beautiful a landscape as mountains or seashores, though it's a beauty many people don't get.

Myriad, I'd love to see the prairies in Canada. It's a similar place for long views and sky I'm sure, but there's a different range of grasses and forbs to see, and more water apparently.

Oryoki, I haven't seen enough sky myself lately, hence this post. I want to make it out there this spring when they do the annual burn; it's an amazing thing to see, especially at night as bands of fire sweep up and over the hillsides.

Larry, I kept expecting the witch to go peddling through the sky on her bicycle.

John, I'm glad you liked them. Whenever I post photos of Kansas I half expect people to say something like "Um...nice weeds."

AKA, I did get back in my vehicle before the heavy rain swept in. As I left the spot where the blue cloud had flown over me, the rain was coming down so hard I had to stop several time 'cause I couldn't see more than 30 or 40 feet.

Hi High! I love showing people my favorite prairie places, I'm evangelical about it, so anytime.

Thank you CoL!

It's always pretty out there Tink, but it's got nothing on Fargo.

Scrolling back up the other way now:

Paul; when I see green skies I take cover. Discretion is the better part of staying alive and all that.

Fred, I was thinking the same thing!

Boanerges; Ron White is hilarious, and what's more he's right.

Linda, those stormtrackers make money for being idjits. I do it for love, though I'd take money if someone offered.

Don, it's trying to snow here too. :(

Michael K; thanks for visiting my blog.

Lorianne Lorianne Lorianne!!!!!!!!!!! :D

Stellaa, it's green here for about a week in early June. ;-)

Linnn; and in the name of the Lollipop Guild....

Trig, spectacular it was. A day spent sky watching is a day well-spent.

White and Black, I could do a whole post about just the flowers. I have before in fact, though they were deleted when I nuked my blog a while back.

Bleue, I've never seen a cloud like it before. If anyone has an idea as to why it was that color I'd love to hear it.

Jeanette, I've spent a fair amount of time back East, and there are some beautiful places there, but without open skies I get claustrophobic after a while.

Candace; storm season, from April or so into July, is my favorite time of year. It's also when the prairie is at its most beautiful.
Ron White. THAT'S who it was. I was trying to remember. Thanks.

I could feel the air get cooler and smell that electric scent in the air.
This should be an EP/Cover.
Thanks for these - what a beautiful world it is, left to it's own devices.
I particularly like "Cobalt Sky"- uncanny how much it resembles a wave passing, seen from beneath ... a thousand miles from any ocean.
If I had to choose between an ocean view or a prairie view, I'd take the latter in a heartbeat. Thanks for the journey.
Most excellent, Sir! You have quite an eye.
Really lovely nana. Especially like the symetry in the flooded field and the little bird. How flat your land is there.
Excellent point Larry! Why the fuck did my television dating show excreance(spelling?) get an EP Cover yet this post was passed over?!?!, It makes no sense to me..I know my post was crap the moment I hot publish and let it fly like Angry Monkey Sez flinging poop on passers by...this is a work of art worthy of a cover.. It makes me embarassed to have authored my shit..

*wanders out of room smarting from realization that I Suck Ass
These are terrific photos, Nana. I thought I saw Mary Poppins disappear over the hill in the first one, but that's OK.
Gorgeous photos. I miss the wide-open spaces of the west.
Your photos look like something out of National Geographic and I loved the commentary.
Dreary here today, so this is a perfect find. Lovely.
now i'm ready to go do the chores i've been procrastinating. thanks for the wonderful road trip - could smell the grass and dirt lifting up in the warmth being shocked out and up by the rain about to land. r
Gorgeous pictures all of these. Especially for me the pictures of sky. Am particularly drawn to the sky as it changes when you turn onto the westbound road and then, of course, the Cobalt sky. Love the story you tell with these.
Beautiful post. You had me going all "Wizard of Oz" here.
Magnificent photos and colors. Wow! Thank you.
Zumapick x 10!

I missed your photos of the Flint Hills because you have an incredible eye.

I think that fourth picture is of Mammatus clouds...I stay home when those suckers are out. We don't get them often here.
So fantastic! One of my favorite parts of the world.
nana, yeah, not much has anything on Fargo!! ~tears~ Hi Temp Ed I Tor!!! **waves**
- beautiful pictures, nanatehay! They make me homesick.
BR, here's another good one from Mr. White:

"I had the right to remain silent... but I didn't have the ability."

I can relate to that one!

Sky, that was my goal. It's difficult to capture a place in a few photographs but I keep trying and sometimes even come close.

Larry, if Emily was here it might be, but I don't think the temp editor cares much for phot0 essays.

IQ, I didn't know you once lived in the Midwest. The formation itself wasn't that unusual, but I've never seen that color of cloud before, anywhere.

Kim, I hadn't thought of it like that, but now that you mention it, and from my limited experience looking at waves from underneath (for instance, being somersaulted head over heels by breakers in New England) that's a perfect description.

FTM; I love the ocean but I feel the same way.

Mike, it was a matter of luck. If only I'd had my camera with me that time I was carjacked by Sasquatch...

Rita, the look of flatness is deceptive. There are places in the Flint Hills where, if you're on top of a plateau like the place I snapped the blue cloud pics, you have flat horizons, but mostly everything is tilted and tumbled, with various strata of limestone layer-caked on top of each other and eroding away in between, all of it forming shelves and tables and cones and mounds and ridges and valleys. If a person gets out of their car and hikes a while they soon notice that they're mainly going either up or down a pretty considerable slope.

White and Black, say WHAT? You rock absolutely and that's all there is to it. :-|

Matt, umbrellas are never a good idea when a straight-line wind blows through...

Thanks Sophie!

Thank you also Margaret, and welcome to my blog. :D

Scupper, it's pretty monochromatic here too. I know I should live in the here and now but I can't wait for spring.

Maria, thanks for coming along on the road trip. I too find when I get back from one I'm better able to do the mundane things I keep putting off.

Anna, the sky tells us a lot of things we need to know.

Jane, I almost included a pic of a place, not far from where I took these photos, called the Lower Fox Creek School. It's an 1870s one-room schoolhouse; whenever I'm there I think of Laura and Mary Ingalls and all the rest of 'em.

Scarlett, if ever a wonderful Wiz there was...

Fusun, I'm glad you liked my pitchers!

Zuma, does mammatus mean what it sounds like? We don't allow those kind of references in Kansas. :-|

Thanks Michael. There aren't that many prairie enthusiasts out there, though the Flint Hills have experienced somewhat of a tourist boom since the establishment of the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve. They need to acquire enough land to re-introduce bison and elk and pronghorn and turn it into a National Park, though that's unlikely as long as so many people in the area think the idea is just an excuse for a land grab.

Catherine, I didn't know you were a prairie native. As I said somewhere earlier in the thread, there are lots of beautiful places in this country to live but I'd get homesick pretty quick without big horizons and plenty of sky.
Good photos of the ancestral homeland of the Pawnee, Kiowa, Kansa and Osage. Not to mention all the tribes forced into Kansas by the US gvt...sad.

Never Again, I suppose.
Tink, the temp Ed hates me 'cause he knows I know you. See what you've done?

And Ernesto, yeah, most of the indigenous tribes were shoved down to Oklahoma. I attended a Kansa pow wow on their ancestral lands in Council Grove last summer; it was a 2 hour drive for me to get there, but 4 or 5 hours for them. That sucks. Even most of the tribes who were relocated here from the East - the Shawnee, Miami and so forth - were forced out once it became expedient to do so. In most cases all that's left here now is their place names and sadness.
Wait a minute. Michael H. IS the temp editor? I take it all back then! Oh my God, aside from when Joan came by once, and when Kerry threatened in a PM to defenestrate me, I've never interacted with the staff before. How does my hair look? Is my collar straight? Oh my god there's a dirty sock draped over my CPU!
Thank you for letting me hitch a ride on this great trip.
Bachelorpod, SnarkyChaser, thanks for coming along on the road trip.

In the photo where I'm facing due south and the sky is black you can see Roniger Hill, the highest point in Chase county, in the distance. In one of my favorite books, Prairyerth, the author (he also wrote the classic Blue Highways) says:

I am standing on Roniger Hill: I am facing West, dusk creeping up my back to absorb my thirty-foot shadow, the sun now a flattened crescent so dull I can look directly into it. The month is November, and behind me a full moon will soon rise, and I am standing on this hill. I've been to this place before. Up here in the thirties Frank and George Roniger built three stone markers to honor Indian remains they unearthed atop the ridge. The Roniger brothers were bachelors, farmers, and collectors of stone artifacts from their fields lying below, and they believed this hill sacred to the people who lived around it in the time when Europeans were building cathedrals and sending children off to take holy cities from desert tribes. To me, this ridge is singular, and, at night, almost unearthly, and I come here, in a friend's words, as a two-bit mystic, but I believe I've found my way to the top by some old compass in the blood.

Some old compass in the blood; that's what draws me out to the Flint Hills.
I can only try to imagine what that day must've smelled like... green grass, the charge in the air, the earth, and rain. Then the clear breeze on which every scent floats after the storm. (I'll bet this was film, not digital. The colors are so rich. Did you know Kodachrome is no longer?)
i came back to give you grief about not recognizing michael, you big doofus, and then i read your last comment. and now the hair on my arms is standing up. great great great quote.
Prairie country has its own beauty. Nice drama here. Thankee.
Absolutely beautiful. I especially loved the picture of the horses and the one of the long road with the dark sky. Very crisp. RRRR
I've hardly known you and yet I think, perhaps, you are the gentlest soul.
Fantastic pics. I especially love the first one of the dirt road heading toward the distant clouds.
This was beautiful. Loved seeing a part of the country I've not yet visited.
The sky is so different in different parts of the country. I don't think I've ever seen skies like these...Beautiful and frightening all at once. You are a great photographer.~r
nana, your hair looks fine!!! I'm going to miss Temp Ed, he put me on the Cover, like I'm one of the cool writers on here, got another EP for my collection.


I never got any angry PMs from Kerry or Joan, I've heard through the grapevine that my name is muttered under their breath as 'That damn cat!!'

~Tears~ Michael declared my Mayor of Open.Salon. I'm honored, I always saw myself as more like dog catcher for the lower east side of Open!! TEARS!!!

And yes, already added to my resume!! :D
Abby, it was a digital camera, and a not very expensive one. I haven't had a film camera since I loaned my niece my Nikon 35mm and it *got* broke.

Candace, I am a blatant doofus, there's no denying it.

Dr. Lee, it's an understated beauty compared to mountains or what have you but it's real nonetheless.

Amy, the horses shot is one of my favs too. They walked up from across the pasture like they wanted to be photographed.

Anna; I will deny that charge 'til my dying day. :D

Roger, one of the things I love about driving around out there is those roads that seem to disappear into the sky.

LSchmoopie; you totally should visit out here sometime!

Joan, beautiful and frightening at once is a good way to describe storms like the one I tried to recreate here. There's nothing quite like being out on the earth with no shelter around when one happens. It's better than drugs.

You fool Tink, he's just using you. Snap out of it before it's too late dammit. :-\

Sweetfeet; thank you and so are you!
I like being used!! Teeheehee!!!

I'm flagging your post cause I know you didn't take these pictures nor did you write any of the words, it all came from PornAMatic.com!!!!


**Wanders off, his tail accidentally hitting LIKE instead**
If you ever even joke about flagging me again your days here are over cat. And you've got a dingle-berry on your tail. Kpffft!
i love these shots- they capture a midwest storm perfectly
I love crazy weather like that-so exciting. Great photos. I kept saying, "Get in the car!"
Nana, over the years I have always treasured the drive through the Flint Hills on our trips home to see the folks in Kansas. Just this last summer I went to Cottonwood Falls after I saw your post about it. The road leading in to the small Flint Hills town is enchanting, and it allows one to penetrate the hills and prairie, instead of just driving by.

In my walks in those hills I've seen those types of clouds..the cobalt and aqua color is intense. The air can change so suddenly, as you have said. Summer is my favorite time, in the heat of the day. You have to be careful, the prairie gets quite hot.

At the edge of the Flint Hills, I'm sure you have seen Coronado Heights, near Lindsborg, Kansas; the highest geological locale in the state. Spanish chain-mail armour was discovered there in 1912, and they think the hill may have been the stopping point of Francisco Vasquez de Coronado's quest for the Seven Cities of Gold as he and his forces turn back towards Mexico. They think he arrived there in 1541...imagine an army of exhausted Spainish and Native American conscripts and slaves, hacking their way through 8 ft tall prairie grass.
Awesome pics of an impressive blue norther. Lucky you didn't get blown away, my friend. :)

OK, I've got to find me a storm!

Great pics!
These photographs are absolutely stunning. Loved each and every one of them, but the one of the horses is my favorite. So beautiful!
Really gorgeous pictures. I kept expecting the horses and grasses to move. The sky photos were very dramatic and you told a story! I grew up in Nebraska and now I live in flatland. Water or swamp or houses.
Siiiiigghhhh.........now I have spring fever. And am feeling the pull to return...as always, your photos pull me in. I want to be standing at the fence in the second photograph.
What an eye you have, Nana! One shot is more breathtaking than the next. Just beautiful.

I loved this so much, I would have loved to have been there with you watching it but the pictures make me feel that way so thanks!
I hope you don't mind but I "borrow" your pictures for my screen saver at work but promise when I retire I will delete them. If you mind I will delete them right away but they are so pretty I love to just look at them when I get to sit down...
I flagged ya again just cause I could!! Yeah, bring it bubba, bring it, with your girly arms and bald monkey skull, and we'll see who can bitch slap who!!!

Yeah, I've been exercising!! PFFFtttttttt!!!!!!!!!!!!
And that ain't no dingle berry, that's a...oh yeah...never mind. It's a dingle berry!!!

**Wanders off into the deep dark woods where the evil creatures live**
poorsinner, free speech? Speech ain't free where I come from, you gotta pay!!

What? :D
Nana - all I've got for you is "Wow." Thank you for taking me along.
Beautiful photos. Another world at the moment.

I took a drive around the neighbourhood on Sunday. Those storms can be a bitch...