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[Photos] Cloudy With a Chance of Flooding: On Chasing Storms Around Saigon

A long-time Australian resident of Saigon once joked with me after my arrival to Vietnam a few years ago that southern Vietnam has two seasons: hot, and bloody hot.

Of course, while the city is indeed scorching hot for most of the year, the two seasons of its characteristic tropical wet and dry climate are more accurately described as, well, wet and dry.

Wind and rain lashing the Thu Thiem New Urban Area.

During the wet season, tropical deluges get dumped on the city at any time of the day with minimal warning. One has to constantly be ready in case an abrupt downpour decides to disrupt whatever they were doing. But perhaps most commonly, the deeply humid heat slowly builds throughout the late morning and early afternoon before the rapidly growing cumulus towers merge and erupt over the city, unleashing a torrent of wind and rain that stops most daily life for an hour or so.

Scary skies over Binh Thanh District.

Back during my university days in the US, there was a time where I was planning to get my Master’s and PhD in meteorology, before other academic interests (and eventually, my move to Vietnam) derailed those plans and set me on a different path. Despite moving on from my desired career in severe weather research, I still spent each spring back in northern Texas carefully monitoring weather forecasts, occasionally skipping class to watch the skies, and foolishly chasing the dangerous thunderstorms that the American Great Plains region is infamous for.

Stormy weather over downtown Saigon.

While the science behind the storm seasons here in Saigon and back in Tornado Alley is vastly different, the massive rain-makers that pop up over the city here are still an absolute spectacle to witness. They may not bring the same level of excitement as supercells that turn the sky green while tornado sirens blare, but they still make for a stunning sight and excellent photography fodder.

Southern Vietnam, or Tornado Alley?

The skyline slowly disappearing behind a wall of heavy rain.

Landmark 81 reflecting shades of gray in the presence of a summer rainstorm.

Looking out over Binh Thanh with angry skies looming overhead.

A cumulus "eruption" over Saigon.

The sun setting through a storm can turn the whole city gold.

Late-afternoon storms make for colorful reflections.

The photos were all taken in Saigon throughout 2020.

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