Storm Highway by Dan Robinson
Weather, photography and the open roadClick for an important message
Lightning Season in West Virginia

September 23, 2000

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Saturday afternoon, NWS (the National Weather Service) downgraded the Saturday overnight forecasts for Charleston from 'showers & thunderstorms likely' to only '30% of showers'. However, Parkersburg, 75 miles to the north, still was under the original forecasts of 60% chance of t-storms.

Radar showed Ohio covered with lightning-producing storms that were going to skirt western WV (Parkersburg) and eastern Ohio. So, at 7:30pm I got on I-77, popped in my favorite CD and headed north.

At 8:30pm I was 20 miles south of Parkersburg and flashes were starting to show through the overcast sky. I kept driving until I was right in front of a very active cell to the southwest at about 9:00pm. I exited the Interstate just north of Marietta, OH and drove north on a secondary road. I've never covered in Ohio before so I was turning around every few minutes trying to figure the roads out. I finally found a place to pull off with a decent view facing the storm at a farmer's field.

Lightning getting closer....CG's every 8-10 seconds......the rain was really coming down so I got to try out the umbrella-bungee cord setup- and it works! It keeps heavy rain out of the car and off the lens, the wind pulls on it but it still holds good. And best of all the whole thing stays out of the camera's view.

I shot about 10 frames and caught about 3 bolts about 1 mile away, but it was raining so hard that even with my eyes I could barely see the channels. Just really intense sheets of light over the whole sky with a bolt in the center of it. I wasn't in a hurry to get these developed, because I knew they'd be throw-away shots (image at right).

One thing about last night was that the rain was brutal. Parkersburg got over 2 inches of rain in 2 hours, of which I was right in the center.

I caught up to 2 more good storms in western WV after this first one, but it was raining so hard I couldn't see the road, let alone find a place to set up. To get a shot in this stuff anyway it would have to be CLOSE. I was driving 25mph for 3 hours on a 55mph curvy mountain road (Rt. 16 south) in some of the heaviest rain I've seen in a long time.

At 1:00am I stopped at a gas station in Grantsville, WV to get a snack and something to drink. I decided to try a bottle of that Snapple 'Lightning' tea. As I took the first drink a bolt of in-cloud lightning flashed across the sky! How's that for effect.....

Finally got out of the rain 45 miles from Charleston, and made it home at 2:30am. And even though I didn't get any good shots, I still had a blast. It's not all about getting photos, it's about just being out there and getting to witness the action.

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