Weather in the Foothills

“It’s enough to drive you crazy, trying to depict the weather, the atmosphere, the ambience.” ~ Claude Monet

Weather – boring? Never. But during this long and seemingly never-ending stretch of beautiful mild weather, I had to pull a few rabbits out of the hat. Reaching within, I found the perfect weather incident far from fitting into the “mild” category. So until the rains come again …

The standout weather event is the occurrence of ball lightning. It’s a mysterious, eye-searing phenomenon connected to thunderstorms. The National Weather Service describes it as a “relatively rare form of lightning consisting of a luminous ball, often reddish in color, which moves rapidly along solid objects or remains floating in mid-air.” That meshes with what a monk in England wrote about in a medieval manuscript thought to be the earliest report of the spectacle. 

A physicist teamed up with a historian from Durham University in the UK to publish a paper in the Royal Meteorologist Society. The study delved into a written account of ball lightning from Benedictine monk, Gervase, of Christ Church Cathedral Priory, Canterbury, around 1200. 

Gervase’s chronicle includes a passage about a “marvelous sign descended near London” in June 1195.

“Gervase’s description of a white substance coming out of the dark cloud, falling as a spinning fiery sphere and then having some horizontal motion is very similar to historic and contemporary descriptions of ball lightning,” said physicist Brain Tanner, co-author of the paper.

If the monk was indeed talking about ball lightning that makes his account one of the earliest known. The next account from England isn’t until 1638. 

Gervase had a good track record of describing unusual events, including eclipses, which added to his credibility as an observer.

“Given that Gervase appears to be a reliable reporter, we believe that his description of the fiery globe on the Thames on 7 June 1195 was the first fully convincing account of ball lightning anywhere,” historian Giles Gasper wrote. 

The rarity and mystery of ball lightning means any account of the phenomenon is notable, whether it’s a modern-day sighting or one from long ago. Gervase’s narrative is a gem and it shows that, even back then, ball lightning was a strange and notable sight.

There’s no ball lightening predicted for the Crescenta Valley, just extremely gusty and destructive Santa Ana winds. The blowing is expected to last through next week with the strongest winds today, Thursday, and Friday. Through most of next week highs in our neck of the woods (or foothills) will range from the 70s to lower 80s … all under blue skies.As I conclude for this week, the Santa Ana winds have returned. How can such power be invisible? In the words of the master painter Claude Monet, “It’s enough to drive you crazy.”

Sue Kilpatrick is a Crescenta Valley resident and Official Skywarn Spotter for the
National Weather Service Reach her at