Storm Highway by Dan Robinson
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                   Monday, July 20, 2009 - 10:50PM

Storms over the Coalfields

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HD EXPEDITION VIDEO: Lightning over southern Mingo County, WV

Yes, finally some storm photos for a change - at least I think that's what this site was supposed to be about. A fairly mediocre chase this afternoon, but it was good to see some visible lightning again after nearly a month. I would not have normally driven as far as I did today for storms of this caliber - but with the strong upper level trough over us, we had nice lapse rates (thanks to very unseasonably cold air aloft), some good low-level instability and notable deep-layer directional shear profiles - which brought a small tornado / cold air funnel risk to the region.

I saw nothing of that nature today (funnels or even storm structure). The most active area was down in the southern coalfields, around the Logan/Williamson/Paintsville vicinity. So, the chase route was 119 south to the Kentucky state line - all the way to the tiny Appalachian coal town of Nolan (Mingo County), where I finally gave up on the funnels and set up for lightning along the Norfolk Southern (former N&W) mainline. I ran both HD video and reaction-based stills. Two trains passed in the 25 minutes I was there. I was hoping to get a lightning shot with locomotives - which I actually came within about 8 seconds of getting (watch the video), instead catching the anvil crawler over the passing hopper cars just behind the engines (first image below).

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While most of the discharges I saw were pretty meager, there was one spectacular and complex sky-filler that I missed on the DSLR by a fraction of a second (you can hear the shutter opening too late on the video). I included a slow-motion replay on the video clip that shows the progression of the flash - there is a CG ground connection in the middle of it all. Here are a few grabs from video:

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As this batch of storms faded, another complex of convection fired to the northeast in Nicholas and Fayette counties on what looked like a boundary from earlier activity. They remained fairly stationary through sunset. Since I expected them to die off quickly, I didn't go after them - opting instead to shoot the distant lightning from ridgetops in Boone and Kanawha counties along Route 119 on the way home.

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