Friday, January 29, 2016
It was one of the most impressive lightning displays I had ever witnessed. And no wonder. It was part of an unusually early and powerful tornado outbreak which occurred on Saturday, April 9, 2011 in northwest Iowa. Our two-vehicle storm chase group was in our final half-hour of chasing just before 9:00 pm CDT. I was given a quick opportunity for our vehicle to pull off the road to capture the lightning display. The above image is actually a two-photograph combination, the first at 8:56 pm, the second a minute later. It looks northeast from 255th Street, just .13-mile east of US Highway 71, and about 2.5 miles south of Early, Iowa. In addition to the vivid lightning, the image also shows the road's illuminated shoulder at lower right; blurred trees at left--buffeted by strong RFD winds (moving right-to-left); and a portion of a mesocyclone at upper left. A tornado from this meso was on the ground just northwest of Early at this moment. A highway patrolman stopped and warily asked us what we were doing here before speeding off to the east (background). Shortly thereafter, we resumed the chase and had a dangerous close encounter with an EF2 wedge tornado around 9:10 pm as we entered the town of Nemaha, about seven miles to the northeast.