Only the best weather is good enough to make valley fog, and it is splendid to behold from above. From a hilltop, a single valley can be viewed, but from an airplane the valleys pass below as if on parade. Some are thick with fog, and some are clear. Sometimes the fog lays flat, and sometimes it is puffed up or it may cling to one hillside in favor of the other. The world below, whether foggy rivers filling the valleys, wooded hills, or cropland lays in bright sunshine under blue sky.
The Elmira area starts another beautiful day in the summer of 2000. The sky is bright blue and the view of distant hills stretches almost forever. Sunshine drenches the hilltops in the still morning air. The valley floor is about 800 feet below the crests of the hills, so this fog was perhaps only 600 feet thick. When this photo was taken, the underside of the fog went right to the ground and no landing approach was possible.
Fog can be a fickle thing. On this morning in October 2002, the morning sun beamed brightly upon the town of Big Flats, the widest part of the Chemung Valley. No fog was present or forecast. In the half hour that it takes to fly from Syracuse to Elmira, the valley filled with fog, as if on a whim. The plane ten minutes ahead of me just made it in, but I found nothing but gray at the 250 foot decision height. Several of us flew long oval holding patterns for an hour and a half before the fog dissipated.