Intense thunderstorm upstages cruise ship entertainment

Lightning strikes off the distant port side of the Disney Fantasy as it sailed into the Gulf of Mexico on May 1, 2013.

It's not often entertainment on board a cruise ship can be upstaged but on this particular night, Mother Nature gave it a shot.

Make that, several shots...

I took this video as the Disney Fantasy sailed into the Gulf of Mexico on May 1 just hours after it left a very hot and muggy Cozumel, Mexico.

(How hot? I went back and checked when I got home and it was 86 degrees with a 73 degree dew point that evening. Or as this Seattleite said: About 3 degrees cooler than molten lava. Though I'm sure many of the Florida residents on the ship probably thought it was a bit chilly.)

It was a deck party playing off their Pirates of the Caribbean ride/movie but it turned into a night of Mother Nature's "pyrots" -- natural pyrotechnics, I guess.

Lightning streaked across the sky both around the horizon and, eventually, overhead as the ship sailed into the building storms. Here is a compilation of the raw video:

(You can also see some of the still shots in the gallery there.)

The storms went on to rage for hours and it was quite the sight since being out at sea, you can see for dozens of miles in every direction and the frequency of lightning was something this Northwest native had never seen before. I was up until 2 a.m. watching the show.

The storms calmed down overnight, but the next day saw Round 2. Actually, this one didn't have much lightning, but the storm had a very dramatic shelf cloud -- again, not something you see around here very often:

That leading cloud is caused by the intense downdraft from the heavy rain coming out of the base of the cloud. That cool air rushing out from the base of the cloud creates its own "mini-cold front" and causes condensation as the cold air forces warm air ahead of it to rise. You could see it approaching rapidly in real time as if it were an approaching dust storm.

I took this 5 minute video which was sped up a bit into time lapse mode so you can see how the gust front rolls out ahead of the storm:

Now, I do have one last video that I give a bit of play-by-play on the approaching storm as you can watch the white caps in the distance get closer and closer as the winds race out ahead of the storm.

The video is over six minutes long and I admit not the most exciting one you'll ever see (especially compared to the one at the top of the blog) but if you're a weather geek, geek out a bit.

And here is proof of the aftermath once the storm hit -- wind gusts of 56 mph! (Actually it had said 59 before I went to grab the camera):