Storm Highway by Dan Robinson
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May 28-29, 2002 Storm Event Log : May 28-29, 2002

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Tuesday, May 28
I knew it was going to be a long drive from Texas to West Virginia, so I just grit my teeth and headed west from Lubbock at 12:00 noon. Well, 12:00 noon, Eastern time - I set my clocks ahead early to match that of my destination.

The scenery is interesting across north central Texas, with red canyons (below left and center) and windmill-spotted praries (below right).

Near Gainesville, Texas, I began to notice large storms developing to the north of me in southern Oklahoma. Despite the lack of any severe weather risk forecast for that area, I figured, 'this is the Plains, it's worth a shot', so I headed north to intercept the closest cell. When I arrived, it had a well-defined base with noticable rotation (RealVideo clip, 291KB). As I moved east with the storm, it developed interesting structure (right) before dissipating quickly after crossing Texoma Lake.

As I rolled into Arkansas after dark, sporadic lightning was visible from small cells dotting the state. I stopped at a rest area to camp for the night, but a truck pulled up beside me, engine running, and stayed there - forcing me on down the road to a quieter site. Good thing, because after I returned to I-30, I noticed more frequent and intense flashing to my west. I set up along a remote country road and waited for the storms to get closer. They seemed to be weakening, and only producing unimpressive intracloud lightning as they got within 3 miles, so I resumed my trip north. But as I looked back, a cell 5 miles behind me began to explode with bright, loud cloud-to-ground strikes. I took the next exit and headed back to Arkadelphia, AR and took a dirt road east of town, just in time to set up and catch several spectacular strikes not too far to the north (below right and left). One bolt hit a power line installation, causing a blue-green explosion on the ground immediately after the strike.

Happy to have caught some decent lightning, I exhaustingly headed northeast to get to the next rest area. But about a mile down the dirt road, still in remote Arkansas farmland, I heard a loud thud that sounded like muffled thunder from a close lightning strike. But, there had been no flash. 'Must have run over something', I thought. I turned around and started back towards the location of the 'thud', just to be sure that I hadn't lost my exhaust system. But as I picked up speed, another softer 'thump' - and another, and another. I stopped, grabbed my flashlight, and got out in the pouring rain to investigate, only to discover that my right rear tire had blown out. Something sharp (I still don't know exactly what) had torn a big chunk off of the tread, deflating the tire immediately.

I stood in the darkness, in pouring rain, with bright lightning still flashing overhead - and changed the tire. The storm had turned the dirt road into mud, and I was one heck of a mess after I finally got back to heading east.

The next rest area near Benton, AR had a nice secluded parking area for camping and picnicing, and I got a good night's sleep after the long and eventful day.

I encountered storms again in Kentucky (below left and center), and before that, took a snapshot of Memphis "in the middle of the pouring rain" (below right). Oh well, at least I wasn't walking.

I finally arrived home at midnight, watched some of the video I'd took during the trip, and called it a night - and a vacation.


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