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Monster lightning storm electrifies Cache Valley with booms, strikes

August 6th, 2011 Posted in Opinion

Story & Photos by D. Whitney Smith

LOGAN—Mother Nature gave her Aug. 4 reply to the smoke-filled, gunpowder-fueled month of July by showering the Cache Valley skies with electrified flashes and lightning bolts for over two hours late Thursday.

“That was a good show last night,” said USU meteorology professor Larry Hipps. “That’s the kind of thing you might see every five or six years at the most here—maybe even every 10 years.”

The rumbles of thunder, caused by rapidly expanding air that heats to over 50,000 F, added a percussive soundtrack to the spectacle while residents broke their heavenward gazes to console crying children and cowering pets.

From about 9:30 p.m. until after midnight, Utah Climate Center meteorologist Marty Booth said multiple slow-moving isolated thunderstorm cells hung over Cache Valley entertaining onlookers with flashes of lightning occurring at least once per second.  Booth said what made these storms unique was the fact that there wasn’t a lot of rain.

“It was one of those thunderstorms that firefighters fear,” Hipps said, “because it’s more or less a dry thunderstorm.”

Greg Blank, aircraft dispatcher for the Northern Interagency Fire Center in Salt Lake City, said climatic conditions in his area were similar but with a lot more rain.

“We’ve got one fire burning right now in, it looks like, the Millville Canyon area,” Blank said. “Oftentimes you get a lot of strikes like this and you won’t find [a fire] for a day or so.”

The Millville Canyon fire is a small, containable one, Blank said, and there was one firefighting helicopter doing “bucket work” in attempts to douse the fire. No other wildfires have ignited in the Cache Valley this year.

This summer is not a typical one for much of northern Utah because of the high winter snowpack and wet spring and early summer. Blank said fire risk is usually a lot higher with dryer conditions, and lightning remains a major contributor.

“The number one weather-related cause of fatalities every year in the United States is lightning,” Hipps said. “A lot of people find that surprising. All those lightning strikes add up. It’s the weather event that really should be most feared.”

Hiking in the mountains during a thunderstorm is extremely dangerous, Hipps said. People in Utah die every year as a result of lightning strikes.

Booth said there were storm cells hovering above the Wellsville and Bear River mountains. Others were recorded by radar as far north as Franklin County, Idaho.

“The lightshow that was going on last night, with the lightning normally that does not happen here in Cache Valley very often,” Booth said. “It’s definitely not considered too out of this world, I guess you could say.”

Monitor Utah weather at the Utah Climate Center website.


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  1. 3 Responses to “Monster lightning storm electrifies Cache Valley with booms, strikes”

  2. By Michael Smith on Aug 6, 2011

    Nice pics. of the lightning. It must have been a sight to see.

  3. By Angela on Aug 6, 2011

    I read on KSL.com that part of this storm contained the Northern Lights, which we normally don’t see in Utah. Can someone confirm whether or not that was true?

  4. By Dan Smith on Aug 11, 2011

    I spoke at a decent length with Hipps and Booth and neither one of them mentioned anything about Northern Lights. I cannot confirm or reject the possibility, but I have a good feeling that it might just be a rumor.

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