Lightning Show

September 5, 2013

by Tim Burris, Mariton Preserve Manager

Over Labor Day, Maureen and I were camping north of Williamsport, PA.  We are members of a sportsmen’s club in Marsh Hill and camp on the grounds several times during the summer.  We camp in a little meadow that is ringed my mountains.  It is a very beautiful setting and we can watch all sorts of wildlife right from our tents.  Saturday night we were treated to a lightning show like I have never seen before. 

The show lasted about an hour and a half, but we never got rain.  Most of the activity was a couple mountains over and they were probably deluged.  I feel sorry for the people living in the heart of the storm.  It must have been harrowing.  We watched bolts of lightning shoot up from the top of a mountain and split into half a dozen branches.

We also saw what looked like fireballs in the clouds that traveled upwards at an angle.  Some of these balls of light broke out of the clouds into lightning bolts that branched off many times.

Finally we saw at least a dozen horizontal cloud to cloud lightning strikes.  These bolts had multiple branches and some of the branches even branched off.  Some were blindingly bright.

I have watched quite a few lightning storms over my lifetime, but I had never seen so much horizontal lightning.  In fact, there was really no cloud to ground lightning during the storm.  There were about 20 other people camping there and they all agreed that they had never seen anything like it.  The closest the storm ever got to us was about one mile.  We did get a few sprinkles as the storm was winding down.  I should have tried to capture some of it with the camera, butI was so mesmerized, that I couldn’t leave my chair. 

Eventually, I will study to find out what was happening in the atmosphere to cause this show.  For now, I just want to remember it as a wonderful display of nature’s power, without the scientific explanation.