By Jim Miles

Weird Weather 1: Pink Lightning
About ten p.m. on June 11, 2011, wife Earline and I were returning home after a two week western tour to celebrate our 35th wedding anniversary.  Approaching Macon on Interstate 75 we both saw half a dozen instances of pink lightning in the distance.  Ten miles north of Macon we encountered a rainstorm so intense that we and other vehicles pulled over to the side of the highway.  As we rode the storm out, some of the most intense lightning strikes in our experience split the skies, accompanied by crashing thunderclaps.

Intrigued by the pink lightning, I immediately consulted the Internet when I got home.  There were few authoritative answers for the phenomenon we observed.  Most sources stated that the colors-produced by mist, dust, humidity, and other matter that light travels through to get to our eyes can produce red and pink lightning.  Also, particles in the atmosphere can affect color by absorbing or diffracting portions of the white light produced by lightning.  The distance from the observer and faraway city lights may cause this phenomenon.  Pink as well as green hues have been reported from the lightning rarely produced in snowstorms.

I consulted the Natural Wonders chapter of my 2000 book, Weird Georgia, for other instances of odd lightning and other unusual atmospherics.
Weird Weather 1: Lightning Strikes

William Corliss, who has spent decades assembling anomalous data for his Sourcebook Project, has collected 16 documented cases of “lightning figures,” including one incident from Georgia.  In Americus  on July 12, 1875, lightning struck a tree, severing a limb, then passed into a house where its several inhabitants “were rendered insensible for a time.., and on their recovery there were found impressed upon the bodies of them all more or less distinct images of this tree,” particularly on the body of a child who had stood in the center of the room.  A witness said “the child is impressed upon its back and exactly opposite upon its stomach.  The entire tree is plain, and perfect in toto: every limb, branch, and leaf, and even the severed part, is plainly perceptible.”  In time the figures faded away.

Again And Again and Again And Again

It seems that vast stretches of concrete attracts lightning.  During the spring and summer large strikes crater the runway at Hartsfield International Airport two or three times a week.  In mid-April, 1997, an unusually large crater, four feet across and nine inches deep, closed a runway for 90 minutes, causing 35 flights to be delayed.

Weird Weather 1: White Streaks and Red Arches

Multiple Choice Question: A. Swamp Gas  B. Aurora Borealis  C. Chemicals.

Residents of several southeastern states from Memphis to the Atlantic Ocean reported a strange glow in the sky in late March, 1991.  Sheila Steverson was traveling with her family at 11:20 p.m. near Fort Gordon when she spotted a bizarre red cloud “at least six miles long” that stretched across the sky.  She described driving through “a big white streak going up in the sky.  There were red arches in the sky…at least 100 yards apart.”  Truckers were discussing the unusual sight over CB radios.

Explanations ranged from chemicals released by NASA as part of a scientific study to the aurora borealis.  The control tower at Dannelly Field in Montgomery, Alabama, suggested moonbeams which refracted across a substance similar to swamp gas in the air.

Weird Weather 1: Aurora Borealis

Due to Gilmer County’s high mountains and clear skies, the aurora has been seen twice.  In 1920 the author of a local history book observed to the north a “whitish cloud shot with varying degrees of red.”  Resident Dow Grace saw what “looked like a blood spot on the sky.”  Mrs. B.A. Gunn studied what looked like a “thunder head” with a red glow above.  The center was a rosy pink, and on one side she saw red cloud rays “like those of a setting sun…”

Portents of War?

In Pike County one night in 1860 “the whole of the northern heavens was lighted up from horizon to zenith with a fiery aurora borealis” before “it as mysteriously disappeared.  All watched it with awe and shuddering thought-war!”  Perhaps this was a divine warning of the coming of the Civil War.

Weird Weather 1: Blue Sky Rinse

During the early afternoon of August 13, 1831, a blue tint settled over the face of the sun above Macon and remained until the sun set seven hours later.  Citizens quickly smoked glasses through which they watched the sun while thumbing frantically through almanacs.  The phenomena was widespread, as some sources claim that in Virginia Nat Turner saw it as a sign to incite a slave rebellion.  No satisfactory explanation for the event was ever offered.

Weird Weather 1: A Red Storm

The Baker County News reported a strange sandstorm that swept over the area one Sunday afternoon in 1875.  Church and dinner had been concluded, and family and friends of John Harvey Coker, overseer of Primus Jones’s plantation, had gathered on his verandah to relax and chat.  Someone noticed that the sky was turning red, the velocity of the wind was rapidly increasing, and sand was flying.  The storm built quickly, coloring the sky red and casting a reddish tinge over the countryside.  The multitude retired hastily to a newly erected shelter they called a stockade.  They had just reached its safety when all hell broke loose.  Flying sand blotted out exterior views and the wind shook the timbers of the shelter.  For long minutes, children screamed, women wept, and men prayed earnestly.  Abruptly the storm lifted.  There had been no injuries, but crops were savaged.  John’s wife later told a local minister, “I bet there were more converted in my stockade last Sunday than were converted at your church.”

These “red storms” are often blamed on violent windstorms which pick up red sand and carry it a considerable distance, sometimes across oceans.

Jim Milesufossavannah is the author of two Weird Georgia books, seven books about Georgia ghosts and eight books about the Civil War. To see all of his books go to the Jim Miles Author Page on Amazon. Order autographed books or contact Jim directly at milesbooks@cox.net