It was a muggy, lazy summer evening on the North Carolina Outer Banks. There was no sign of a storm.

But in Elizabeth City, to its northwest, a vigorous thunderstorm was building fueled by the heat that had accumulated during the day. The storm seemed headed out to sea, but intent on taking a scenic route, it then made a hard right turn.

Vacationers along the Outer Banks were in for an unforgettable display of clouds and, ultimately, lightning.

As the sun was setting the storm made its dramatic approach to the Outer Banks, and then paralleled the scenic coastline. It first descended upon Corolla and Duck.

“We didn’t know a storm was coming and even my weather app showed only cloudy skies in the middle of the storm actually happening,” eyewitness Meghan Kenealy said. “Within a few minutes it turned darker and bigger and started rolling in.”

The storm boasted a stunning yet menacing shelf cloud, which was beautifully documented by many vacationers at the scene. However, as the core of the storm remained over the water, the coastline only experienced some brief downpours and modest gusts of wind, rather than anything more violent.

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“The storm looked much worse than it turned out to be, at least in Corolla,” according to Pamela Priebe Cowen. “But we did have heavy rain and wind for a while.”

Behind the shelf cloud, the storm took on a very dark and ribbed appearance, known as a “whale’s mouth” cloud feature given its likeness. It’s within the whale’s mouth the storm unloads rain and produces lightning.

“It is about as pretty a shelf cloud and whale’s mouth (under the shelf after it has passed) as you’ll see,” remarked Capital Weather Gang’s Ian Livingston, a storm chaser, upon viewing the photos and video.

After the storm itself passed, the show wasn’t yet over. “The coolest thing, other than the cloud formations, was watching the storm as it moved out to sea,” said Cowen. “There was a clear line of demarcation between the storm and the clear sky behind it, with lots of lightning activity at the edge.”

Below find more terrific photos of this awesome storm spectacle …

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