Week 106 | February 12, 2015
Over the past year, you have heard me mention Destructive Nature on Facebook, as well as the storm chasers and Photographers who contribute continuously to its content. One of those people who you have also heard me mention is Jack Miller, whose photography I share from time to time. Without storm chasers, these folks who thankfully put themselves at risk to follow the cell, we would not have half the information we do today regarding lightning and other whether occurrences. Beyond the obvious of what storm chasers do, there are also a multitude of research projects that they facilitate on behalf of groups throughout the World.
I actually got my first introduction to storm chasers was on April 11, 2013, when I received an email from the renowned chaser and researcher, Tim Samaras, who I had reached out to just a day before after reading about him in an article in the Wichita Eagle. His worked looked interesting to me, so I messaged him through Facebook. I was both surprised (considering how busy he was) and thrilled when he responded and we started to exchange emails on how we could collaborate together. He was just getting ready to go out on the road and we were to speak over that summer. That would never happen. To my and many others dismay and heartbreak, Tim, his son and an associate were tragically killed, just a little over one month later, by a tornado doing what they loved most, chasing the storm. I was at a loss for quite a while on how to move forward and a little trepidatious about doing so.
What was/is our goal in reaching out to people of this ilk, one may ask? We are always interested in the latest and most innovative research, data and images surrounding storms, especially lightning. We have supported many efforts over the years and are always looking for these opportunities. Researching and understanding storms that produce such volatile weather events is paramount to being able to do what we do so effectively. Knowledge and education is imperative in this business.
Well, just a few months later, the way to move forward presented itself. I joined a group on Facebook called Destructive Nature (DN). At the time I did not realize who ran it. It was an accident; I was just interested in the pretty lightning photos, which I enjoy sharing from time to time on our Facebook page. It turned out that DN was actually started by James Bryan and managed by a select group of storm chasers and photographers, which in many cases are one in the same. That is how I met Jack and Jason, who we are proud to have assisted during their research on The Franklin Box Project for the BBC and hope to work forward with on many additional projects in the future. Below in Jack’s brief accounting on his journey to this incredible life.
Working with people of this caliber is amazing, exciting, invigorating, not to mention highly informative.
As always, enjoy! Sending thanks to all those storm chasers out there!
By Jack Miller
Since I was about 10, I have always been fascinated with lightning. I would stay up late to watch the lightning jumping out of storms through my bedroom window. I remember numerous times during thunderstorms, I would run outside and stick a metal rod in the front yard and run back inside, peering out the living room window hoping lightning would strike it. Of course I didn’t know any better but it was nice at the time to think what would happen if it did get struck.
As the years progress, so did my curiosity for storms. In ‘97 the movie Twister was put on the first DVD in the US, and of course I had it. I remember bragging about how I watched it 81 times in the 6 months I bought it, always kept me on my toes. Then the worst happened in ’98, Florida had its deadliest Tornado outbreak in history. 12 Tornadoes touched down, one of them being 4 miles away from our house. I remember waking up to a barrage of lightning, wind, and knowing something was wrong. Checked the TV to find out we were under a tornado warning and that there were tornadoes on the ground.
Quite a bit of time passed but my fascination of weather never stopped. About 3 years ago, I followed a local lightning photographer (Jason Weingart) on facebook who took amazing photos of lightning. After watching his work I ended up purchasing a cheap little camera and tried taking my own pictures of lightning for the first time. Finally got my first picture of lightning on June 12th, 2013 and I was hooked! I purchased my first DSLR camera 3 months later and started going after every local storm that came through central Florida. One of my lightning photos reached viral status on August 20, 2013 when The Weather Channel shared it on Facebook and received over a million views and almost 8k shares started trending on Reddit. My fan base for my photography grew after that day and so did my love for taking lightning photos and seeing the responses. Later that year, I purchased a Professional DSLR camera and continued my pursuit lightning and storm photography. I became more involved with the local National Weather Service by becoming a Certified Storm Spotter and started studying more about the dynamics of weather. Through the support of fellow friends, storm chasers, and photographers, I was able to get better with my weather forecasting and also capturing lightning photos.
In August of 2014, I was invited by Jason Weingart to join a project with BBC in Texas to trigger a lightning strike using a probe that shot rockets with a copper wire attached to it into active thunderstorms. We spent 2 weeks trying to achieve a successful strike but we’re not able to after 2 attempted deployments. During my time out there I had learned quite a bit about the pros and cons of our current setup and set out on my way back to Florida with a new design in mind.
The Lightning On-Demand Unit, or L.O.U. Project for short, came from a completely new design of the previous lightning probe in Texas. Not only does it address all the deficiencies with the first probe but also adds several new capabilities like a sensor array to know when to launch in optimum conditions along with several other components to make the system automated which will increase our chances of having a successful rocket initiated strike. More information on the project can be found at www.thelouproject.com.
From the time I got my first lightning photo to the development of The L.O.U. Project, I couldn’t be more thankful for the support I have received from my family, friends and my amazing girlfriend Betty who chases with me. Without them, I would never be able to accomplish what I have in such a short span of time. As the approaching 2015 storm season nears, I can only hope I can be as active and successful with both capturing both lighting on camera and also through The L.O.U. project . All we need now is Mother Nature to deliver her always beautiful lightning displays!
If you have any lightning stories you would like to share with us, positive or negative and/or if you have any questions or need additional information please feel free to contact me at LightningDiva@lecglobal.com
Be careful out there! Visit www.lightningprotection.com for all your lightning protection needs. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn for more information and updates as well as some great photos. Thank you for visiting! Big thank you to Jack Miller, Destructive Nature and The L.O.U. Project