“I couldn’t believe it,” says San Francisco freelancer Charles Hall. “I was like, Is this real?”

It’s rare to see lightning in the Bay Area, home to some of the chillest weather in the nation.

So when Charles Hall was shaken from his sleep Monday morning by a booming downpour, he was quick to run to his balcony and set up an umbrella-covered camera overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge.

“Lightning and thunder—I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve seen that in San Francisco over the last ten years,” says the 38-year-old freelance photographer, whose home overlooks the city’s Marina District.

Hall’s instinct to shoot every second paid off big time: He snagged a fantastic shot of pinkish bolts cracking the dome of America’s most revered lipstick-colored bridge. (Here’s hoping no painters were working up top.) “I couldn’t believe it,” he says. “I was like, Is this real?”

Aside from making spectacular weather, the system that electrified the Golden Gate also brought much-needed precipitation to parched California. The Sierra Nevadas received up to nine inches of snow—with a few high-up places even getting 16 inches—which should help partly relieve the mountains’ bad case of male-pattern baldness.

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