The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Phenomenal sunset boasts red sky, lightning and rainbows — all at once

Photos of a magnificent D.C.-area sunset and lightning that followed

Lightning and a rainbow seen at sunset in Lake Ridge, Va. (Anne Kreutzberg Baird)
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The combination of the storm clouds, lightning, rainbows and the setting sun made for a spectacular sunset in the Washington region Tuesday evening.

It marked a dramatic close to an evening featuring severe storms that downed scores of trees and cut power to tens of thousands.

Storms fell trees, cut off power to tens of thousands

As the sun sank toward the horizon west-northwest of Washington, its rays illuminated the underside of tall thunderstorms to the south, causing the sky to glow orange and red.

“Sometimes after a storm you have a thin veil of moisture below to diffuse the bright oranges of the sunset painting anvil clouds in fiery hues,” tweeted Capital Weather Gang contributor Matthew Cappucci. “The biggest storms always seem to bring the most surreal sunsets.”

But that’s not all. As the sun’s rays passed through falling rain droplets, the light was bent, forming beautiful rainbows.

“This is the highest — and reddest — you’ll ever see a rainbow,” Cappucci tweeted. “The shorter wavelengths get scattered because the sunlight has to penetrate more of the atmosphere since it’s at a long sunset angle. Only red/orange/yellow remain.”

To top it all off, the storms — fueled by a hot and humid summer day — unleashed lightning bolts that several lucky photographers captured amid the rainbow-adorned sunset sky.

On our social media feeds, we received hundreds of photos of the spectacle. Many readers said the sky was so magnificent that their photos couldn’t do it justice.

“I wish I could accurately describe to you all how orange this sunset was,” tweeted Dylan Echter.

And the show wasn’t over after the sunset. The lightning kept coming, crawling across the darkened sky.

We can’t share all of the photos we received, but here is a sample of this most memorable Washington sunset and the lightning that followed.