It starts as a distant rumble and flashes of light that catch the corner of your eye. You see the light and start counting, stopping when the rumble rattles the windows. Rule of thumb says five seconds make up a mile. That’s how far away the lightning strikes occur.
Soon the flashes and rumble act as one, lighting up the nighttime skies as bolts of electricity hurtle across the heavens. The Greeks said the lightning bolts came from Zeus, supreme ruler of Mount Olympus. Scientists tell us they come from electrically-charged ice and water particles in the clouds. NASA, which studies lightning, claims the charges can reach a billion volts and generate as high as 54,000 degrees in temperature.
With the help of a nifty photo accessory called the Lightning Trigger, I captured these lightning strikes as storms rumbled through the Little River district of Floyd County this morning. The storm reminded me of a ride back in 1985, when I sat in the back seat of NASA’s “lightning buggy,” a specially-equipped F106B jet that the agency flew intentionally into thunderstorms to study the effects of lightning strikes on aircraft. Lightning struck our plane three times that night and the craft took more than 800 hits during six years of testing of the NASA program.
Too bad I didn’t have a Lightning Trigger on my camera that night. My response time always seemed to be a second behing the bolts. Even so, it was one hell of a ride.