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

Friday, April 6, 2001

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The first real West Virginia storms of 2001 raced southeastward through Kanawha, Boone and Fayette counties between 8:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. this evening.

These cells were moving much faster than I had anticipated, which cost me any photo opportunities this night. The first mistake I made was driving north to intercept a small active cell moving toward Elkview. (Most of the action turned out to be south of town.) By the time I exited the Elkview ramp on I-79 about 9:30 p.m., the storm was long gone and quickly moving away. At this point I saw a second cell flashing nicely about 12 miles to the south, passing near downtown Charleston (see radar at right).

As I headed back south on the Interstate, the storm put on a beautiful show of anvil crawlers that, if I had stopped and set up right then, would have made some decent shots. But I wanted to get closer, so I kept driving. Bad move, since the storms were moving away at around 60 mph- and were slowly beginning to dissipate.

I thought I was gaining on my target storm near Marmet as a bright flash filled the sky in front of me. But, alas, the next flash, near Chelyan, seemed even farther away. It then occurred to me that these things were outrunning me fast, so I started up Cabin Creek road to look for a set-up location.

But at 10:00 p.m. near Sharon, a spectacular anvil crawler flash filled the sky above, which renewed my hopes in catching up with this thing. I got back on the Turnpike and headed south again. I drove all the way to Mahan, exited and drove up rough, dark, and narrow Paint Creek Road to the second highway overpass. The springtime frogs were all over this back road- I hope I didn't hit too many. By the time I got 3 miles up the road, the storm's flash rate abruptly slowed. I stopped and decided this would be as far as I go this time.

The mountains are very steep and high in this area, so my only view of open sky meant aiming the camera almost 45 degrees upward. I didn't think this storm was worth wasting expensive slide film on, so I just grabbed the camcorder and hoped for at least a nice video catch.

It was almost 11:00 p.m. when I hit the record button. But there was nothing more than three distant flashes from another cell further south- the storm I had been trailing for 35 miles had finally died out on me.

I scraped around in the armrest compartment for some Turnpike toll money, flipped on a John MacArthur message on the radio, and started the long drive home.

Although it was a dissapointing night as far as photography is concerned, it was great to get out again after being stuck inside all winter.

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