Storm Highway by Dan Robinson
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New River Series - Part I: Fayette Station, WV, - May 12, 2002 - 4:30 AM

By DAN ROBINSON
Storm Chaser/Photographer
25 Years of Storm Chasing
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The 1 hour, 15 minute trip from Charleston is long, the roads winding, and the mountains steep - and by the time you finally park at the Fayette Station bridge at the bottom of the New River Gorge, your brake pads will be emitting a pungent smoky odor. That's mountain driving for you, but the stunning scenery here in the Fayette County wilderness is worth the trouble, even in the middle of the night. Add a West Virginia thunderstorm to the mix, and you've got a memorable experience. The first photo is the result of trip #5 to the Gorge, as part of a summer expedition to capture lightning behind the New River Gorge Bridge at night.

Trip 5
This time, the storm was too distant and was quickly weakening as dawn rapidly approached - but if the Lord is willing, I will keep making the trip to Fayetteville to try again.

Trip 9
The last three digital photos at right are from the ninth attempt at lightning over the bridge on June 25. A weakening thunderstorm passed just to the south of the Gorge, bringing a brief shower that was enough for the classic New River fog to begin forming. Just prior to the storm, whitewater rafters from Appalachian Bible College drifted towards the next set of rapids on the river.

2003 UPDATE: An overnight storm on July 19, 2003 finally yields success at the bridge! This night I was blessed with a great lightning show at the bridge that the cameras were able to capture. This was storm trip #25 to this location since September of 2001. This photo project took 1 year and 10 months, 3,000 miles of driving, and 10 overnight campouts at Fayette Station to complete. It was a very difficult project due to the fact that I live over an hour away from Fayetteville, and also because thunderstorms are not very common in the southeastern counties of West Virginia. Only four out of the 25 trips to the bridge yielded lightning in the vicinity, and on only two of the trips did I even set up the cameras for a storm.

Camera/Lens/Film: 35mm Pentax K1000 SLR, 28mm lens, Fujichrome Sensia II 100 slide.
Exposure: 10 minutes @ F5.6

Digital Camera: Fuji Finepix 4700 Digital, 2400x1800 resolution

Clear Nights at The Bridge
The Gorge is a great place to camp on a clear night. Light pollution is minimal, with stars abounding. Meteors are also more visible in the low light conditions. And, aside from the rapids and the occasional train, it's a very peaceful place.

The two photos above are from a starry night at the bridge on September 9, taken with 40 minute exposures at F2.8 on Sensia 100. For more photos from this night, visit the Appalachian Skies section of this web site.

The last photo at right is me walking across the bridge the day it was officially opened - on my second birthday, October 22, 1977.

[ click images to enlarge ]


October 22, 1977

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