Ex-Hurricane Ophelia turns Brighton into a Martian landscape.
Mid-afternoon on Monday the 16th of October has got to be one of the strangest and most memorable days I can remember in all the years I’ve been photographing weather.
Firstly, Hurricane Ophelia would hold the record for being the most easterly formed hurricane in the Atlantic basin. Reaching Category 3 status, it went on to wreak a swathe of damage across Ireland shortly after transitioning less than 24 hours earlier into an extratropical cyclone.
Secondly, in her progression through the Bay of Biscay and across the British Isles, Ophelia would draw up dust from the Sahara with smoke and ash from the Portuguese wildfires. This meant that, come mid afternoon, the sun would turn through progressive shades of orange and red and darken the skies so much as to trigger street lighting. Early in this passage, the sea would reflect back colours of light orange and peach with the clouds descending into burnt ochres and browns. Light from the horizon then turned streaks of mammatus laden stratus into alien shades of green and turquoise.
This is one of the most bizarre yet tranquil experiences I can remember, perfectly natural yet oddly unsettling, reminding me of the watercolour washes of 50s & 60s sci-fi art. Its certainly times like these that cement my interest in weather and photography as if that were ever in doubt. Aside from casting the streets in dark sepia tones, the light that crept in from the horizon to turn the skies those faded watercolour shades of green was just incredible. Foreground tufts of cumulus fringed in silver was other-worldly and I could have sat and watched this all day.
It was a only a fleeting moment however, lasting only a couple of hours or so. Shortly after the wind shifted and picked up a bit but not before the faint smell of sulphur and burning could be detected from the fires currently raging across Portugal, carried on the winds of Ophelia.