Around 7 p.m. Saturday evening, the severe thunderstorm watch had been dropped, and it appeared the D.C. area was in the clear for the evening. But, suddenly just before 9 p.m, intense thunderstorms erupted along a line stretching from northern Montgomery County to Baltimore. The storms put on a dazzling lightning display that could be seen all around the D.C. area.
The lightning was frequent and intense, flashing like a vivid strobe light at a night club. Most of the lightning hopped around within the clouds rather than bolting to the ground.
“There were a lot of flashes coming out of the top of the storm, from the anvil, and a lot of dancing back and forth [within the clouds],” said NOAA’s Scott Rudlosky, a lightning expert. “It was an interesting spectacle.”
The Washington, D.C. Lightning Mapping Array (DCLMA), which measures the radiowaves emitted by the lightning channels, recorded off-the-chart levels between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m.
Earth Network’s Total Lightning Network showed flash rates of over 100 per minute according to Mark Hoekzema, its chief meteorologist. Notice how the lightning rates explode from zero to over 100 flashes per minute in just a little over 10 minutes!
Extremely unstable air due to steamy temperatures and oppressive humidity levels likely led to the high lightning output.
NOAA’s Rudlosky explained the quantity of lightning was also related to the duration of the storm.
“That front just stalled out as it was approaching,” Rudlosky said. “So storms trained over the same region.”
Readers captured amazing photos and videos of the lightning storm, many from areas well south of the main activity, photographing the lightning looking north. See some great examples below.
— Alex Thomas (@AlxTwt) July 21, 2013
By @irenerojas via Twitter
By A.J. Wojciak from Falls Church
By Perry Winslow, Jr. from Bailey’s Crossroads via Facebook
By @super_christina via Twitter from Glover Park
By @greg_scanlon via Twitter from Dumbarton Bridge