This summer I have been watching clouds.
Maybe it is because I attended the wildland firefighting course at the beginning of summer, S-290, Intermediate Fire Behavior. A good bit of the course is about weather since it, along with fuels and topography, is a major factor (and the most variable) in influencing fire behavior. I've had my eye out for a good cumulonimbus storm cloud, the anvil-top clouds that are a sign of an unstable atmosphere and severe weather. And there's nothing like a Maxfield Parrish sky for beauty.
Or maybe it's because we've had so little rain here this summer, that I am looking for those clouds that will bring us needed precipitation. I know we've had more-publicized droughts but this one seems pretty severe. We've had enough rain that the lawns haven't completely gone dormant but even the largest trees have wilting leaves. I have never watered so much as this summer, an effort to keep the high-traffic barnyard (our program area) from becoming dust and preventing the loss of newly-planted trees (that normally are left on their own).
Here's a photo from our vacation this summer in the low country of South Carolina. I thought this storm was going to pass us by right up until the time it hit. It rained every day there that week but not for long and so it never interfered with enjoying the outdoors.
Here at home, without significant precipitation in the last couple months—and many days above 90 degrees—it's a different story.
The National Weather Service has issued a Red Flag Warning for tomorrow, Wednesday September 8 for parts of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland: "A red flag warning means that critical fire weather conditions are either occurring now or will shortly: A combination of strong winds, low relative humidity, and warm temperatures will create explosive fire growth potential."
Hang on, be prepared, and watch the sky for the rain that will eventually come.