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Double tornadoes touch down in Nebraska

GREAT SHOT: Lightning beside a twister

Daniel Martins
Digital Reporter

Tuesday, September 30, 2014, 1:41 PM - Tornadoes are already impressive enough, without the addition of a bolt of lightning accompanying them as they wend their way across the landscape.

Stormchaser Greg Johnson of TornadoHunter.com happened upon just such a shot when he was chasing in Nebraska this past summer, 

He captured it on June 16, and says it's one of the two twin tornadoes that ripped through the small Nebraska town of Pilger, killing at least two people and injuring a score more (the tornadoes are the ones in the video above).

"The one tornado that you see on the ground is in the final stage, the rope stage," Johnson told The Weather Network on Tuesday, when he tweeted out the shot.

Johnson said the lightning strike he tried to capture seemed to follow the curve of the tornado, but he missed the bolt itself, apparently capturing this strange-looking after effect.

Zoomed in, it seems as though there's a long trail of tiny fireballs, following the path down to the ground.

"What it looks like to me, and I've watched some video frames as well, after the lightning strike finishes, it looks like the air, and maybe the debris that's in the air that's following along the path of the lightning strike, ... [is] being vapourized," Johnson said, adding that though he's seen the phenomenon once before in 2012, he's not sure what causes it.

Weather Network meteorologist Chris Scott says the value of the shot is that it demonstrates that lightning bolts, in reality, are actually much narrower than they seem in more famous shots. They only appear to fill the sky due to the brightness of the flash.

As for that beaded effect, Scott says it might be super heated pockets of air left behind by the extremely hot bolt - but given how grainy the rest of the shot is, a likelier explanation is that it's the very last stage of the narrow bolt, but pixelated due to the camera's resolution.

Meteorologist Scott Sutherland agreed it might be an after-image, but added it might be a digital-only product of the camera.

"It could be a digital artifact, how the camera adjusts its pixels," Sutherland says.

You can follow Greg Johnson at @canadogreg

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