Storm Highway by Dan Robinson
Storm chasing, photography and the open roadClick for an important message

Tropical Storm Ernesto chase: September 1, 2006

ABOVE: Ernesto destroys a sign on Thursday night.

CHASE VIDEO: Ernesto roars ashore in North Carolina: Youtube

CAROLINA BEACH, NC - I left Charleston at 2PM on Wednesday to cover Ernesto's landfall, just missing a significant thunderstorm that passed through back home, bringing large hail and flooding to Kanawha, Putnam and Cabell counties. After an overnight stay in Raleigh, I chose Wrightsville Beach as the initial target despite the official forecast calling for a Myrtle Beach landfall. Ernesto's forecast track had been inching northeastward, and I figured that if that trend continued, Wilmington area would at least be a good location to begin the day.

After shooting some outer bands in the Wilmington area, Bill Coyle arrived from Virginia Beach - and we headed south to Carolina Beach at 4PM to shoot the next set of rain bands rotating onshore. Later that afternoon, my brother Matt arrived from Raleigh, giving our team a third cameraman. We decided to split up and shoot different locations, enabling us to cover more of the town as Ernesto came ashore.

Ernesto's initial outer bands were more like summer thunderstorms, with lightning and heavy rain but not much in the way of wind. However, the bands closer to the center that we experienced at Carolina beach were beginning to feel more intense. By sunset, signs, billboards and gas station canopies were rocking, and wind-blown rain created white-out conditions. We were able to catch a decent amount of action on camera despite Ernesto falling just short of official hurricane strength (details and photos below).

By midnight, the center of Ernesto was overhead and winds were calm. City police re-opened the bridge out of town, and we headed back to Wilmington and checked into our hotel for the night, bringing our Ernesto chase to a close.

Photos:

A transformer continuously arcs in Carolina Beach:

Winds and rain buffet palm trees in Carolina Beach:

In Carolina Beach, this sign underwent a progressive destruction as the innermost bands of Ernesto arrived:

One of the most eerie sights of the night was the insulators on many of the power lines partially flashing/arcing over with continuous orange and blue arcs:

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