The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

As Hermine skimmed D.C., it put on a first-class show in the sky

Sunset, Caroline County, Sept. 2. ( <a href=";set=p.10208246102604946&amp;type=3&amp;theater">Jess Harper via Facebook</a> )

It could not have worked out much better for the D.C. area over the holiday weekend. Hermine passed safely to our east, but its enormous cloud deck grazing the region presented some unbelievable skies.

On Friday and Saturday, the D.C. area witnessed back-to-back magnificent sunsets as well as seldom-seen halos and wave clouds.

It all started Friday. As Hermine approached the North Carolina Outer Banks, the high cirrus clouds along its northern periphery streamed into the D.C. region.

As the cirrus clouds’ icy particles bent the sun’s rays passing through, brilliant 22-degree halos formed — which resembled a circular rainbow surrounding our nearest star.

Then, as dusk approached, the combination of the sun’s descent in the west and the arrival of mid- and high-level clouds from the south made for an unforgettable sunset Friday.

On Saturday, as if the atmosphere was mimicking the action of the stormy seas to its east, stunning wave clouds emerged over the western part of our region, near Frederick, Md. These clouds, known as Kelvin Helmholtz, form from wind shear. They break like a wave on the shore — the bottom layer of water moves slower than the top layer, and the top billows over and crashes.

Finally, on the back edge of the departing storm Saturday evening, the region was treated to a second straight sunset spectacular.

Why were these sunsets so great? “In most cases, cirrus clouds dominate the fringes of outer bands of tropical systems,” explained Jacob DeFlitch, who helped develop the website “Depending on the location, a high cloud deck can exist as the tropical system skirts to the east. A slight clearing on the western horizon allows the sun to scatter light beneath the high cloud layer, lighting up the sky in a kaleidoscope of colors”

Readers shared so many wonderful photos of these jaw-dropping skies over the holiday weekend. We share a sample below…


Sept. 2

Sept. 3