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Posted at 11:00 AM ET, 05/17/2010

A beautiful and powerful storm

By Kevin Ambrose

* Rainy, cool start to week: CWG's Full Forecast | Hail photo & video *

A photo panorama of a severe thunderstorm moving through the D.C. area at 6:45 p.m. on Friday. I photographed the storm from the parking garage at Fairfax Town Center. Because the storm was too big to frame within a single photo, I took several photos and used Adobe Photoshop's filemerge option to stitch together a panorama of the storm in the eastern sky.

I've noticed the best time for viewing thunderstorms in our area is often in April and May. The muggy, humid conditions of mid-summer are not yet upon us and the atmosphere is often quite clear for viewing a towering thunderstorm, from the base of the storm to the anvil top.

The storms on Friday were no exception to this rule. I took a sequence of shots in Oakton and Fairfax that reveal the structure of a severe thunderstorm as it moved rapidly from west to east. Large hail and briefly gusty winds accompanied Friday's storms. The hail was large enough in some areas to dent cars.

Keep reading for more photos and commentary...

The storm approaches Oakton, Va., from the west at 5:57 p.m. Friday. I pulled off the road to capture this shot as I drove home from work.

Soon after I arrived home heavy rain and marble-sized hail fell for only a few minutes. In nearby Vienna, the hail was large enough to dent cars. This photo is a frame capture from my digital camcorder. The movie of the falling hail was so quick that I decided not to include it with this post.

The storm moved rapidly to the east at almost 60 mph. It was followed by bright sunshine moments after the rain ended. This photo was taken at 6:24 p.m. from Oakton, Va., facing east after the storm departed.

I drove a short distance from Oakton to Fairfax Town Center for a better view of the storm. This photo was taken at 6:45 p.m. and shows the northern portion of storm as it bore down on D.C. proper.

This photo was taken at 6:45 p.m. and shows the southern portion of the storm as it moved into the District.

The center of the storm as it moved east.

By Kevin Ambrose  | May 17, 2010; 11:00 AM ET
Categories:  Photography  
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Next: PM Update: Steady rain to turn showery


Great photos!

Posted by: erbele | May 17, 2010 11:42 AM | Report abuse

Kevin I agree with erbele - nice shots. Nice use of software too on that one combined-photo panorama!

Posted by: Camden-CapitalWeatherGang | May 17, 2010 1:03 PM | Report abuse

Great pics! I was driving south on West Ox at the time & had an incredible "profile" view of the storm's cloud top against the blue sky.

The earlier hailstorm left it's mark @ West Ox as well - ice pellets thick enough to shovel on the sidewalk...

Posted by: Jayess | May 17, 2010 4:07 PM | Report abuse

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