Storm Highway by Dan Robinson
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I-77 Twilight: Jackson County, WV - July 18 and 30, 2002 - 9:30PM, 10:30PM

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During many nighttime thunderstorm events in West Virginia, the state's own 'Lightning Alley' in the Parkersburg region typically will receive more rain and lightning activity than the Charleston metro area. Consequently, storm photography conditions are often much better in Jackson County and points north, while the Kanawha Valley remains dry. Such has been the pattern for most of the summer of 2002, requiring many trips north on Interstate 77 to meet up with active storms.

First Photo: July 18, 2002
Close-up branches from a nearby cloud-to-ground strike reach down at Medina Road, with thunder coming less than a second after the flash. The parent lightning strike was more distant, about a mile and a half behind me. I was set up at a 'last resort' vantage point underneath the I-77 overpass at Medina Road (north of Ripley) after the rain forced me away from better locations to the southwest.

The wind and rain ended up playing their usual games, changing direction and constantly soaking my lens. Frustrated, I abandoned this storm after this shot, despite the frequent lightning. I decided to go south to get out of the precip core. After I got out of the rain, there were some nice vivid strikes coming out of the side of the cells, but I could not find a setup spot fast enough before they dissipated.

This night found the best storms once again in Jackson County, in the 'Lightning Alley' of West Virginia. 40 miles to the south of here in Charleston, no rain had fallen at my house at all when I got home.

Second Photo: July 30, 2002
With a Slight Risk of severe weather forecast for this evening, the 'Lightning Alley' of the mountains was set to act up again. I made the drive north to try to get into the action. Skies were clear to the south of the line of storms, making all of the sunset-backlit cells starkly visible to the northwest. Lightning was visible flashing in the cells, with the occasional bolt popping out of the clouds here and there. It was a very entertaining sight to watch as I drove north toward them.

While I was still 30 miles away, the storms began to die - and I was going to have to stop and get what I could. I pulled well off the shoulder near Ripley, and shot a couple of frames with I-77 traffic streaking by in the fading twilight. This exposure was about 2 minutes long, with the aperture opened up all the way due to the lightning's distance from me. A small section of a lightning channel is visible coming out of the cloud on the right, at a distance of about 25 miles. After this, the storms didn't do much else but produce some high winds and very heavy rain as they collapsed.

Once again, no rain fell this night back in Charleston.

Camera/Lens/Film: 35mm Pentax K1000 SLR, 28mm lens, Fujichrome Sensia II 100 slides.
Exposure, photo 1: 25 seconds @ F8
Exposure, photo 2: 2 minutes @ F2.8

[ click above images to enlarge ]

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