Storm Highway by Dan Robinson
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Lightning Season in West Virginia

Lightning Season 1997

By DAN ROBINSON
Storm Chaser/Photographer
25 Years of Storm Chasing
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* Storms in West Virginia

Summer storm season winding down- The quiet storms are here

It's beginning to get awful quiet here in the mountains- at least that big expanse we call the sky is. The weather's been hot and muggy, cool and rainy, and sometimes mild and sunny (perfect for an drive down a remote West Virginia road, an activity that does a good job of clearing your thoughts and refreshing your spirit).
However, lately there have only been a handful of small night-time thunderstorms- yes, those steady-rain-for-hours ones with a few faint intracloud discharges hidden way up in the clouds. You know, those soft-blue sky-painting flashes that produce that sleepy, soothing rumble that just makes you want to lie down on the old glider on Grandma's back porch and let the constant sound of the rainwater dripping out of the broken downspout on the corner of the house put you to sleep.

Although there isn't much to be photographed during these storms, and not much in the way of scientific or thrill-seeking observations, these storms are just as enjoyable as the big, severe ones that keep your adrenaline flowing. They are a full-length nature album with visual effects and surround sound, one of the most relaxing things to listen to on a warm night. These quiet storms are the first to roll in in the spring and the last to move through in the fall...like birds migrating north and south for the season. They're sort of an introduction and closing act for summer weather- worthy to be watched!

True, these storms won't produce cloud-to-ground lightning so close that it makes your hair stand on end and your fillings glow. But, they are a different breed- another product of the Lord's vivid, diverse, and mighty creative power. So next time one drifts through your town, grab a lawn chair and a glass of ginger ale, and head for the back porch......because the snow's only a few cold fronts away.

(8-18-97)

Local thunderstorm frequency above average in 1997


1997 has been a great summer for lightning photography here in West Virginia. The Lord has sent many strong storms through here, as well as other parts of the country. Storm activity during May and June was unusually slow, compared to past years when most severe weather occured during these months. However, July was a particularly active month, with many days of thunderstorm activity.
So far, August has brought a fairly moderate frequency of storms.
High temperatures coupled with many moisture-laden air masses have been the motors for thunderstorm formation. Thunderstorms have formed during many days when fronts were not a factor in the local weather patterns.

'Lightning Chasing' Aids

A valuable storm-watching tool is NEXRAD or Doppler radar, which allows you to see every storm's location by colored blobs on a map. The Weather Channel shows the radar often, and you can also see it right here on the 'net. The radar image I use is the INTELLICAST national radar: It's a high resolution image updated every hour, allowing you to track storms yourself. Although the image isn't very current, it allows you to see the storm, rain, and snow activity as it was about 1 hour ago, and if you check back every hour, you can see a storm's general direction of motion and make a pretty reliable prediction whether or not it's headed your way, and if so, when it will arrive.

Here's the link to the INTELLICAST hourly national radar image:
* INTELLICAST National Radar Map- you can 'zoom in' by clicking the map at the point where you live.

A nice feature of the Intellicast site is a pre-assembled radar animation. It allows you to see the general direction of weather systems' motion:
* INTELLICAST National Radar Map Animation

Keep an eye on the skies and be safe!

-Dan

* Lightning Season 1998
* Lightning Season 1999
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