John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
A well-placed thunderstorm created a dark and seemingly infinite path in the sky.
Every so often, nature does something that makes you want to drop everything and gape. One of these moments happened Wednesday, when a storm near Memphis threw a shadow that stretched from Mississippi to Alabama and dang near into Georgia.
The key to this crazy phenomenon was the storm’s towering height and the position of the sun, writes meteorologist James Spann at the Alabama Weather Blog. “The shadow was from a lone thunderstorm near Memphis, in the exact spot where the sun was going down on the horizon,” blogs Spann, who has graciously allowed us to reproduce some of the images sent in by his fans. “The storm was over 50,000 feet tall, and cast a very long shadow.”
Beholding the super-shadow—which Tennessee meteorologist Erik Proseus thinks stretched for about 200 miles—was like watching an anti-search light suck sunshine from the heavens. I’ve seen that happen when the sun sets behind Washington’s Mount Rainier, but never in the South. Here’s more of what it looked like: