Monday, July 2, 2012

PTown Rainbow Seen 'Round the World

A dark sky rolls in behind the Provincetown Public Library, sending folks scrambling for cover.
Ten minutes earlier there was blue sky beyond these buildings.

Where were you on June 23rd, when that otherwise quiet Saturday evening's dark skies suddenly emerged from the northwest, pushing misty wisps of impeccably white clouds across the town and out over the harbor with great, gusting winds, turning blue sky to near-darkness except for the erratic streaks of lightening ushering in thundering buckets of rain, all in under ten minutes...?

I was sitting on the bench at Pepe's Wharf waiting for a friend to join me for dinner when I heard people at the edge of the Johnson Street parking lot exclaiming over the clouds rising above the rooftops along Commercial Street. I pulled out my camera as I walked toward them to take a look, just in case it was something interesting, and was astonished to see enormous, perfectly white clouds drifting upward, morphing into other shapes so quickly it looked a bit like a time-lapsed film of clouds rolling up and over the town. As the sky turned that deep, dark blue-black color of twilight (nearly two hours early) and the sudden, cool wind  blew loose items up Commercial Street, shopkeepers rushed out to pull in displays from their front stoops, visitors scrambled toward the safety of their guesthouses, and Helen and Napi Van Dereck stood out in the middle of Freeman Street, cheering on the  storm.

From Johnson Street parking lot these remarkable, pure white, misty clouds
seemed to be rising from the ground somewhere beyond Bradford Street.

As the clouds rose over the rooftops they began shredding into delicate wisps,
so low above the buildings that I could imagine touching them from the rooftops.

In a moment, the last wisps were blown apart and the sky really began to darken.

Seconds later an enormous storm cloud emerged from the ever-darker sky,
being pushed over the town, toward the harbor, by a cold northwest wind. 

All of these photos were taken within moments. I thought about fishermen and whalers who sailed these waters 150 years ago, during the Golden Age of Sail in Provincetown, before there were any modern weather predicting devices. Many miles from the sight of land, with the ship's hold full of Codfish, a serious storm developing as quickly as this could easily have sent the ship and its crew to the bottom of he sea.
When I ducked up Freeman Street to shave a few steps off of my dash from Johnson Street to Alden Street, I found Napi and Helen there, standing arm in arm at the dogleg in the road and looking to the north, watching the gathering storm rolling down Standish Street toward them. They were unperturbed at the prospect of a drenching rain, rather rooting for the storm. Within a few more moments a torrent of rain began pounding down onto Provincetown and everyone who had been unable, or who had chosen not to, get out of the way.
A bit of lightening here and there seemed oddly out of proportion to the tremendous thunder claps that sounded as the storm rolled through, while the roar of the rain battering the town's rooftops gradually surpassed the fading sound of the thunder as the gusting wind blew the storm out over the harbor.
As quickly as it had materialized, the storm departed, leaving behind the most memorable rainbow many of us had ever seen, a double rainbow arching from one end of the harbor to the other. This would be a topic in most of the conversations taking place in town over the next several days. Cell phones and pocket cameras had snapped shots of this amazing sight and people were sharing them on the Internet within minutes. John Ventilato sent me the one below.

John Ventilato took this photo of the rainbow that followed the storm.

When the storm hit, Bobby Miller had been having dinner near enough to his studio above the Post Office that he could dash upstairs to grab his camera in time to run back down to shoot the rainbow from the beach behind the Post Office. He had a wide enough lens to capture the whole rainbow, from end to end. The photo he sent me is below, and has now been seen around the world on his Facebook page. I think that most of us experiencing the sudden darkening of the sky that evening, the abrupt change of temperature, the amazing sight of the clouds doing things that I'll wager none of us had ever seen before, gave us all a collective shiver of anticipation, as well as a bit of trepidation, as it donned on us that Mother Nature was about to do whatever she pleased, with absolutely no regard for our feelings about it. Bobby said that riding through that approaching darkness and then into the beauty and the light of that rainbow had been a transformative experience for him.

Bobby Miller's photo of the rainbow 

As the storm had begun to roll in, It turns out Tom Johnson was watching it just a few feet from me. He was sitting on the upper deck at Pepe's. His higher vantage point gave him some really dramatic shots of the storm rolling in over the rooftops. Go by the Tom Johnson Photo Gallery on the first floor of the Whaler's Wharf, at 237 Commercial Street, and ask if you can see them. At this writing he hadn't yet gotten them all printed up and framed. It's worth a special trip there just see his amazing shot of the rainbow, and when you see it, you'll want to put it on your wall at home, and send it to friends, too.
Tom's rainbow photo captured the most vibrant, gorgeous colors of any of the photos I've seen. It's phenomenal, and It's been selling like hotcakes since the moment he put it on the wall in his shop. Well done, Tom.
If anyone else has photos to share, let me know and I'll show them here.

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