Lightning flashes at sunset from Skyline Drive on Sunday. (Jim Havard via Flickr)

Golden sunsets are more or less a given in the summer. But to see one intercepted by bolts of lightning is something else.

As the sun was setting Sunday evening, its rays poked through storm cells erupting over the hills and mountains north and west of Washington. Several photographers captured gorgeous views of not only the clouds and their rain shafts glowing in the golden light but also of elusive lightning flashes.

Washington-area resident Jim Havard had just finished hiking on Skyline Drive five miles south of Front Royal when a storm approached. He watched it come in from an overlook in the Dickey Ridge area, snapping the scene below.


Lightning flashes at sunset from Skyline Drive on Sunday. (Jim Havard via Flickr)

“The sun just kept poking through, and the sky turned more and more vivid,” he said. “It was exhilarating. I could smell the lightning.”

Havard departed when the storm got close, but as he drove north, he stopped at another overlook because the sky was so dramatic. “I had to pull over because the colors got more pastel-y in the sky,” he said.

It was here at the Shenandoah Valley Overlook that he captured the scenes at the top of this post and below.


Lightning flashes at sunset from Skyline Drive on Sunday. (Jim Havard via Flickr)

Meanwhile, around the same time, Sara Randall captured this view of a lightning bolt and the setting sun in the same shot west of Frederick:

Using radar analysis software, Capital Weather Gang’s Matthew Cappucci was able to reconstruct the thunderstorm that unleashed this bolt and the core of rain and hail that produced it:


(Matthew Cappucci/GR2)

Here’s time-lapse footage of the same storm:

After dark, this same thunderstorm would initiate an epic lightning display in Washington’s northern suburbs, emitting more than 70,000 lightning discharges in a single hour.