Lightning Photography during the Tornado Warnings in Johnstown, PA


Storm Photography of the Tornado Warnings in Johnstown, PA

Storm Photography of the Tornado Warnings in Johnstown, PA

Last night’s weather was CRRRRRRAZY! Who else was up all night because of the thunder and lightning!? 🌪 ⛈ ⚡️ Can we talk about all the storms that have been pushing through the Johnstown, Pennsylvania area lately and how much energy they have been packing?! In order to get this photograph, I put myself in one of the most terrifying situations that I have ever been a part of. Seriously.

Before story time, I'm giving away a 12x18 print of this photograph to one lucky person who shares this post publicly (so I can see you shared it). Share away for a chance to win something cool that celebrates Western, PA 🔥

At 8:49 PM on May 29th, 2019 I text my friend John Price, “Wanna go chase the next wave of storms?!’ Just a few minutes before I sent that text message out I had another alarm on my phone warning of a potential tornado producing storm. After a quick conversation with my friend John Charney who lives to the North in Caroltown, PA, I knew I had to take off. Charney said…

“We’ve had a TON of vicious lightning…I would die in a tornado just to witness it!”

I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see one myself but his words would haunt me just a short while later as Price and I frantically tried to make an exit from the craziest storm I have ever been in.

Within minutes of my text messages, Price and I were loading my car up with gear and driving up the mountain into the Gallitzin State Forest in Windber, PA. The future cast is rarely accurate but it looked like the storm was going to push in from the North near Johnstown, PA and slink it’s way South to Bedford, PA. We cruised all around the mountain hunting for a view while the sky flashed and rumbled with greater intensity.

We started off near the windmills but quickly realized that storm was coming in from the North just beyond the ridge where we were and our view was absolutely terrible. My face was buried in my phone trying to track the storm for a few minutes and when I finally came up with a game plan I looked up to see a pure black cloud pushing over us. It was like have a front row seat to the end of the world. I knew things were going to get pretty crazy within minutes so we quickly loaded up the car again and drove to the overlook while dodging the scars on the road that the previous storms have left behind.

Just as we arrived to our destination the sky was flashing and booming. We flew out of the car and set up shop on top of the mountain. The first photograph I took was at 10:19:10 PM. This is the second photograph that I took at 10:19:48. It really was THAT quick. Shout out to weddings, they have made my photographic reaction time insanely quick.

The lighting was flashing on the Northern side of the mountain and I really couldn’t tell what was going on. All I could tell was the sky was getting BLACK and soaking up more of the light from the lightning until I made the call to head back East around 10:30 PM. It looked like a pretty major pocket of storms were brewing up over Windber and I wanted to capture them as they rolled in from the West.

I completely misjudged how quickly the storm was pushing toward us. Within minutes we were on top of the mountain driving East but we were met with violent winds, sheets of rain that made it impossible to see where I was driving, and the craziest amount of lightning flashes I have ever seen. I couldn’t see the bolts of lighting because we were literally INSIDE of the charged up clouds. I’ve honestly never been so afraid in my life. What a dumb idea to try to get back East! I kept thinking how I should have just drove down off the South end of the mountain and waited the storm out from below. But here we were inside of a storm frantically trying to escape. At one point visibility was so bad Price loaded up his GPS to make sure we were staying on the road as we crawled down the mountain.

Just when we thought it couldn’t get any blacker…it couldn’t rain any harder…or the claps of thunder couldn’t be any louder…Mother Nature proved us wrong. It seemed like an eternity sloshing through the roads that had become rivers as Charney’s text rang in my head like the thunder was ringing the sky. Was I really going to die on this mountain chasing a tornado?! You know it’s real when you turn off the radio and vents in the car to focus as hard as you possibly can.

More rain. More lightning. More thunder. More lightning. More thunder. More rain.

After about 30 minutes of so we finally made it to the Old Bedford Pike / Hollow Road intersection as the storm seemed to slow down. Just as I turned off onto Hollow Road to head home with my tail between my legs we saw a jeep flying down the road chasing the same storm. I hope they knew what they were driving into. As the worst of the storm had moved past us Price broke the silence as the jeeps tail lights disappeared into the void, “At least we’re not the only psychos out here tonight.” I felt so strange nervously laughing at his comment after I just had emotions of dread and doom firing in all corners of my mind.

I replied, “I know man… … … … I can’t wait until the next one…tomorrow looks crazy too…so…see you tomorrow?!” 😅

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