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                   Tuesday, January 17, 2012 - 4:13AM CST

Lightning and severe storms in STL - January 17 chase in Missouri

By DAN ROBINSON
Storm Chaser/Photographer
25 Years of Storm Chasing
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HD VIDEO: January lightning over the Arch in St. Louis (select 1080p option and full screen for HD)

As I've said many times, the reason it's so great to be a chaser in the United States (specifically the Midwest) is that we don't have a true 'off season' for storms. Winter severe weather events are common at least once or twice each November-February period annually here - it's one of the reasons I moved to this region. This night's setup was a warm, moist airmass transported northward by strong southerly winds ahead of an upper level trough. A low pressure system at the surface developed and moved northeastward, dragging a strong cold front southeast across the Midwest. Along and ahead of the front, numerous strong thunderstorms developed, aided by strong upper level support.

The best area for supercells was in southwestern Missouri after sunset, but as this region is difficult to chase due to trees and hills, I opted to make this primarily a lightning outing in eastern Missouri and the STL region. I started after the first storms of the evening in Bowling Green, MO, then generally dropped south and east along Highway 61, I-70 and I-64, ultimately ending up in downtown St. Louis. Just about every core was filled with small hail, the largest I estimated to be about quarter size on I-70 just west of Wentzville. The hailstones were very soft, smashing into pieces on impact like snowballs. A second round of storms moved through St. Louis around 5:30AM, but was generally less cooperative with lightning photo ops. All in all, a great way to kick off the 2012 chase photo/video folders!

Here are some screen captures from video:

Gateway Arch lightning 1

Gateway Arch lightning 2

Gateway Arch lightning 3

Gateway Arch lightning 4

Downtown St. Louis lightning

And finally, a lone still from near I-70 at Foristell:

Foristell, MO lightning

Other chaser reports from this day:

The following comments were posted before this site switched to a new comment system on August 27, 2016:

Keep in mind the 10/90 rule. Tie any sky to atleast 10 percent ground, good captures though.
- Posted by Brendon Lindsey
Brendon, thanks for the note. I would argue that sometimes that rule can be broken for a tall subject like the Arch. I try to do a new angle of the Arch every time I shoot it to have a good variety. I have a lot of the standard angles (with the ground) already covered. In this case, I zoomed in so that it fills the frame more proportionately, expecting lightning to fill in the rest of the sky behind it. I suppose it's a matter of preference whether this composition actually works OK or not - personally, I tend to like having a few unique angles like this one.
- Posted by Dan R. from New Baden, IL
Great shots Dan!...Even without any ground showing ;)
- Posted by Kristina W. from Louisville, KY

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