Spring Storms

I like to repost this reminder each Spring.  PLEASE BE SAFE!

Storm Nebraska April 2013 Jamie Vesay IMG_0491 - Version 2

Although I find it a bit humorous when a crew from Los Angeles runs outside to watch the lightning here,  “We don’t get shows like this in California,”  we encourage you to stay inside or run fast away from the danger.  I agree, the power of nature does make it tough to look away or stop shooting.  But we love you, and prefer you stay alive.

The good news is there is no freakin snow in Spring (at least most years).  But that means it’s tornado season.  Curious and spectacular as they are, know that they are dangerous forces of nature that injure and kill human beings.  Please don’t be stupid.

Storm coming Jamie Vesay copyHere are a few tips about filming in the Nebraska USA Spring time:

  • Today’s tech allows you to literally hold radar in your hand.  Do so.  Sign up for local news weather alerts and listen to your device.
  • Be prepared to cover up, move gear, and take shelter.
  • Have a plan.  Think about ample space if you have to dive for safety and cover sets for extra stormy days.  If a storm comes up – lower the condor, get the crew off any scaffolding, and drop all the metal.  Get away from standing water.
  • Leave the storm-chasing to the trained professionals.
  • If you need to take cover for a big tornado – hide IN THE GROUND.  A bathtub or drywall closet is not gonna cut it when an F4 can throw an 18 wheeler.
  • And if you are caught DRIVING while a twister is passing through, that idea about taking cover under an overpass is not right.  Worse case scenario – take a tip from the movie Twister and strap yourself to something nearby that is grounded or anchored to the planet (and not a pickup truck or cow).   Hold on and pray.
  • The light and photography after a storm passes can be stunning.   Be ready but wait for it.Rainbow farm Jamie Vesay WM 42213 IMG_0467 - Version 3 iPhone treated copy

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Winter Snow Cold

Omaha in February
Omaha in February

Nebraska is in the northern half of the United States.  We get winter.  Because there is no mountain range directly to the north (or south) of us, there is usually a slight breeze or gusty wind.  In the late summer, it’s a hot wind.  In the winter, well, it can be – stupid.

Any time after the first of October, it can get down to freezing (32F) but usually only overnight or for a couple days.  Leaves could still be on trees as fall (autumn).  It has already snowed early in October.  Ice storms can happen around then too.  Halloween was cancelled one year.  An early snow doesn’t usually hang around long because the ground is not frozen – yet. 

Snow in early fall. Four seasons in one day.
Snow in early fall. Four seasons in one day.

Winter becomes semi official in late November and into December.  Leaves go away and the grass turns brown.  Temperatures could live near or below freezing for weeks at a time.  January and February can be brutal.  Although, last year, winter was extra mild with sparse snow and temperatures moderate.  So it can be cyclical.

Snow in Omaha park Jamie Vesay WM 100_2648_2 copy
Snow in Omaha public park. There are evergreens here.

Compared to other States, we actually don’t get a large amount of annual snow.  We will get at least one big snow storm each winter.  Big, as in ten plus inches.  If this happens after the ground is frozen and temps stay cold for the rest of winter, that snow will remain until March.  Some times, it will snow big early, then melt.  But then snow again in smaller amounts – two to three inches here, maybe five inches there.

I won’t elaborate here about photography in snow.  You know, it’s bright, it’s white.  But if it is cold, know your gear and the limitations (if there are any) in extreme  cold.  These days, digital chips and prosumer lenses can present challenges.  Many years ago, I shot with a 16mm film camera in fifty below zero and it was fine.  “Did he just say fifty below?  Fahrenheit?”

Snow in a neighborhood.  Shovels and plows.
Snow in a neighborhood. Shovels and plows.

If it has snowed on your set or on the way to the set or is just getting in the way – you’ll have to move it.  Sidewalks, entry ways, and parking lots all need to be cleared.  Don’t forget if you’re moving inside and the snow you’ll drag indoors.  Snow is water.  Mix in a little dirt and things can get messy.  IF snow is packed or ice has formed – driving, walking, or wheeling carts through snow or over ice can be DANGEROUS.  Use rock salt or an ice-melt product.  Your local Coordinator should know where to get a snowplow.

Plowed snow in parking lot
Plowed snow in parking lot

Snow outside a Nebraska city is a whole other animal (and could be a separate blog post).  Yes, plenty of other States get bigger snow, but when we get it bad (big) the Interstates can close, snow drifts can get feet-deep, and things can get REALLY dangerous.  Similar to other northern States, Nebraska does have exit ramps with gates that can be closed during a storm.  But no roads in Nebraska are “closed for the winter.”

Finally, if you’re shooting outside, you MUST STAY WARM.  If you’re in the Locations department, it is your job to keep the crew warm.  Wearing the right clothes is subjective.  Layers, wool, thermal, and down are all great words to watch for on the label.  In snow, I wear a layer of external nylon, like rain pants or even snow pants to keep the wet snow away.  It also protects from the wind.  Form follows function.

HEATERS are essential.  Depending on your budget, there are plenty of options in Nebraska.  Propane powered bullet types and smaller space heaters are available through numerous rental places in Omaha or Lincoln.  Consider patio heaters for a longer shoot.  Remember NO PROPANE INDOORS.  Watch for fire hazards with open flames.  NEVER burn charcoal indoors!  It will KILL you!  Frankly, if it is below zero and windy – and you’re not dressed for it and there are no heaters, it will be uncomfortable.

Two words:  Hot soup.

While we’d love to have you come shoot any time, just know about winter in Nebraska.  Come and shoot any other time of year too.  Until then, look at the warm side.  It’s not impossible.  And spring will be here any day now.                      Have fun.  Stay warm.