I spent last weekend in Big Bend National Park where Internet connection is spotty, at best. Disconnected from my laptop, I felt free and unmoored. Free to keep my head in the clouds, such as this storm cloud formation that loomed over the Sierra del Carmen Mountain range on Friday evening.
The Goddess of Liberty statue replica atop the Texas Capitol dome in Austin was gently lowered into place on June 14, 1986, by a Mississippi National Guard helicopter. Two weeks earlier, as described by the Austin American-Statesman, Texas Army National Guard crews tried for two days to secure the statue with the use of a CH-47 Chinook helicopter.
But as the Statesman and other newspapers reported, including the New York Times, the Texas Army National Guard’s efforts were thwarted by gusting winds and the helicopter pilot’s inability to see below the aircraft in attempts to place the statue over a steel pole attached to the top of the dome. As detailed by the New York Times, the Mississippi National Guard came to the rescue with a Sikorsky CH54 Skycrane helicopter that offered better visibility for the pilot and a suspended line that could be raised or lowered, as opposed to a fixed line.
The replica replaced the original Goddess of Liberty statue, which was erected in 1888 and was showing damage and deterioration due to exposure to heat, rain, and wind. Under the oversight of The State Preservation Board, the original statue was removed by helicopter from the Texas Capitol dome in November 1985.
According to historical records from the Office of the Architect of the Capitol, the deterioration of the Goddess of Liberty was first noticed in 1983 when workers painting the statue’s pedestal noticed extensive cracks along the backs of her arms, hand, and sword.
The original and refurbished Goddess of Liberty is on display at the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin (www.thestoryoftexas.com). Originally cast of galvanized iron and zinc and coated with paint and sand to simulate stone, she stands almost 16 feet tall and weighs about 2,000 pounds.
The Goddess of Liberty replica is corrosion-resistant and made of an aluminum alloy. Like the original, she holds a sword and a gilded star.
March 30, 2015: At dusk, while stopped at a traffic light just north of the Texas Capitol near downtown Austin, I peered through the windshield trying to figure out this cloud formation. Was it a jet contrail? Some kind of trippy clouds I’d never seen? For help, I recently turned to meteorologist Aaron Treadway of the Austin/San Antonio-based National Weather Service.
The formation does look like an aviation contrail, Treadway replied in an email. The clouds around the contrail, he explained, are a mix of altocumulus (puffy, mid-altitude clouds that resemble cotton candy) and altostratus (gray or bluish layers of striated or fibrous clouds in the mid layers). “It looks to me like the jet flew at the same altitude as this cloud layer,” Treadway wrote, “leaving behind the contrail and splitting the cloud deck, then over time the contrail spread out producing the smooth line down the middle.”
I’m introducing a weekly feature: Driving With Clouds. Every Sunday, I will post one or more of my photos of clouds, taken in urban and rural settings, from the road, from the side of the road, from wherever I happen to be. Clouds change, from second to second, from season to season. They travel across the sky, sometimes like sets of ocean waves, sometimes like tiny boats.