Storm chaser’s lucky escape from lightning

Forecaster and storm-chaser Brendan Jones

Forecaster and storm-chaser Brendan Jones

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A meteorologist and keen storm chaser said he felt ‘very lucky’ after coming within 30 feet of being struck by lightning.

Brendan Jones, 35, a forecaster at MetDesk, based in Wendover, went to Ivinghoe Beacon on Friday night to try and photograph the storms and ended up getting more than he bargained for.

Mr Jones said: “The storm was over 10 miles away, still very distant, when the unthinkable happened.

“A huge lightning strike arced the ten miles between the storm and my location, striking the ground within 30 feet of where I was standing.

“The intense heat, the ear-splitting thunder and the powerful shockwave were immense.”

Two people were tragically killed by lightning strikes in the Brecon Beacons in Wales on Sunday and Mr Jones said the incident served as ‘a very real demonstration of the dangers of lightning.’

He said: “I like to think I know what I am doing but even I got caught out by what happened on Ivinghoe Beacon.”

Mr Jones, who lives in Tring, said he had been interested in storm-chasing for 20 years.

He said: “I got into it at the age of 15 but I wasn’t old enough to drive.

“I have been to Texas and Oklahoma in America to chase storms.

“Some people do it as a way of making a living, particularly in the United States but I do it because it’s something I’m interested in.”

Mr Jones said he had driven up to 400 or 500 miles at a time to chase storms.

He added the incident at Ivinghoe Beacon, which happened just after midnight on Saturday morning was as close as he had ever been to a lightning bolt.

He said: “I was very close when a lightning bolt hit a cornfield which I was parked next to but I was in a car on that occasion.

“This time I could really feel the heat and the shockwave was like an explosion.

“The sheer force of it actually knocked over the tripod that I had positioned next to me.

“At the time the storm seemed very distant but it could have been horrible if the lightning had landed any closer.”

Mr Jones said he had been watching the planned path of the storm for a few days.

He said: “I had my equipment ready and got down there in plenty of time.

“The storm actually arrived a bit later than had been anticipated.

“It was a real fluke that I managed to get such a great photo.

“If the camera had been pointing a couple of inches the other way I wouldn’t have been so lucky.

“It was probably the best photo of lightning I have ever got.”

Mr Jones, who leads a forecasting team at MetDesk, which focuses on operational forecasting, urged people to be aware of the dangers of storm chasing before heading out.

He advised that anyone interested in storm-chasing should visit the website for TORRO (The Tornado and Storm Research Organisation) to learn about the risks involved first.

Visit www.torro.org.uk to find out more and to read more see our Weather Watch column on page 30.