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Double Close Lightning Strikes in Pittsburgh

By DAN ROBINSON
Storm Chaser/Photographer
25 Years of Storm Chasing
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Occasionally I find myself in the crosshairs of interrogations by people who don't believe in God. They're out to overthrow any foundation for faith in Christ, and I guess I'm just as good a target as anyone. One of their main arguments is something along the lines of, 'you can't show us one time when your God or your prayers ever worked." Well, I guess they don't know me too well. I've had quite a few times where God very obviously answered my prayers. Here's one of them.

In 1995 I had only been a Christian for 2 years, and my prayers were usually more selfish than they were sincere. But sometimes God is willing to lavish a believer with a great answer, even if it's not something earth-shattering. In the spring of 1995, I asked God for a close-up lightning strike on film. On July 24, I was given the shot. But not of one close lightning strike - two. Simultaneously. How's that for an answer?

Any storm photographer can tell you that catching a close lightning bolt on 35mm film doesn't happen every day. And I can't think of a day when it's easy to go out and get two at the same time.

Now I realize that prayer is about more than just getting good photos. If all I ever prayed for was stuff like this, my life would be pretty shallow. But if this doesn't convince you that God is able to answer prayers when He wants to, I really don't know what else to tell you.

These bolts struck ground at a measured 230 feet (right strike) and 500 feet (left strike) from my position underneath a Parkway Center office building in Green Tree, Pennsylvania, just south of downtown Pittsburgh. The clearing on the left side of the photo is the Parkway Center Driving Range. The building in the distance is a hirise apartment building on Mount Washington. The heavy rain falling in the distance has mostly obscured the Pittsburgh skyline from view, but the US Steel Building is still faintly discernable just to the left of the light pole and small tree on the right side of the photo. At right, a photo taken on a clear day shows the normal view of downtown buildings from the site.

It wasn't raining at my position when these strikes hit. In fact, most of the lightning had moved off into the distance, and I was about to give up and go home. This is what you'd call a "bolt (or bolts) from the blue" or "anvil lightning", a strike that traveled far away horizontally from the storm cloud before touching ground.

It's also interesting to note that the several return strokes that made up the strike on the right are spread apart for the first 15 feet above the ground (inset at right).

Below: The camera was set up in the ground-level parking area under this Parkway Center office building.

Camera/Lens/Film: 35mm Pentax K1000, 28mm lens, Kodak 100 ASA.
Exposure: 3 seconds @ F11

[ click above image to enlarge ]

 

 

 
Pittsburgh skyline

 

 

 

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