Severe thunderstorms blast eastern Ohio: Moderate risk issued by SPC for area
August 26, 2003
EXPEDITION VIDEO: Strong storms in east central Ohio
CAMBRIDGE, OH - I spent most of the evening just northwest of the junction of I-77 and I-70 in east central Ohio in Coshocton, Tuscarawas and Geurnsey counties. Saw some very intense stuff. From the looks of the extensive swath of wind incidents on the SPC storm reports, this should definately qualify as a derecho event. I experienced winds of at least 70mph and higher gusts for about 25 minutes.
Left Charleston at 5:00pm and arrived at the I-70/I-77 JCT at around 7:45PM. Nothing obvious happening except for some cirrus to the NW. AM radio going crazy with static. Pulled over in SW Coshocton Co. and heard distant booms to the N. Headed N for 10 miles, saw the first visible distant CG about 10 miles off to the NW at around 9:00PM. Thought I had plenty of time to set up. Wrong. 10 minutes later, I look up to see huge stacked-layer shelf cloud directly overhead. Caught me off guard, it rushed by before I could get any shots. Just a couple minutes behind it, lightning, precip and the very strong wind racing east.
I was west of I-77 at this point and tried heading back east on Rt. 36 to I-77 then south to get ahead of the line. Copious amounts of small debris (gravel, branches, leaves, trash) blowing across the road and pelting me. There were numerous power flashes along Rt. 36 (see first part of video clip):
No chance of getting out in front of the storms again, wind and precip were hurricane-like as I approached I-77 near Cambridge (see video). After turning onto I-77, the winds decreased slightly but the lightning activity and precip increased significantly for the next 20 minutes. There were many close and bright cloud-to-ground strikes along the road:
Note in some of these screen captures, there appears to be a very close part of the lightning channel striking within feet or inches away. The lightning was not actually that close, owing to a false ghost image effect that often occurs with lightning recorded on video. (Read more about the ghost image effect)
South of I-70, I hit a break in the precip with CGs continuing, so I exited the highway, stopped under an overpass and took a few 35mm lightning shots (see photos at right) while the dash-mounted video camera continued to roll:
(Note - in the last two images, the lightning did not actually hit me, though it appears so. This illusion is also a result of the common ghosting effect mentioned above.)
Drove on east on a side road to get closer to the lightning again. Debris all over the road - tree limbs, trash, etc in some places completely covering the road.
Got a big scare after this. Lightning was moving off quickly and I decided to call it a night. OK, now where am I? I pull off the road to take a look at the map. Go to shift into park - the shifter won't go past neutral. NO! Not now!! I pulled back on the road and drove down to an empty parking lot to survey what was wrong. As I slowly rolled into the parking lot I rolled down the window and heard a lot of scraping and grinding noises from under the truck, and I got that sinking feeling in my stomach. I'm about 120 miles from home at this point.
I put on the emergency brake and got out the flashlight expecting to see smoking gears and various metal parts hanging down. But to my surprise there was a huge tree limb jammed up against the transmission casing. Pulling it free, I saw that it had blocked the shifter lever from moving. I got back in the truck and everything worked fine!!
Got home just after 11:00PM. Intense lightning continued about 70 miles to the north for much of the night but I was too tired to go after it. I had a server crash at work this week and have been tied up almost 24/7 for the past few days, nice to have a good chase on the first free evening I've had in a long time.
Digital Video: Sony DCR-TRV900 3CCD MiniDV, 720x480 NTSC
35mm Camera/Lens/Film: Pentax K1000 SLR, 200mm lens, Fuji Sensia 100 slides.
35mm Exposure: 10 seconds @ F5.6