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May 15, 2022 Mammatus and Lightning Story – "The War of the Worlds"

  • By Brad Nelson
  • Feb 16, 2023

Mammatus clouds

Mammatus Story by Brad Nelson

Hello! My name is Brad Nelson and I am a meteorologist with 18 years of experience at the world’s largest private sector weather company DTN ( I have been chasing storms regularly since 2007 and have seen some incredible weather phenomena, such as the incredible mammatus and lightning photo shown here.

I was chasing storms in Oklahoma this day and set up initially near McAlester, Oklahoma, awaiting initiation just south of an outflow boundary from morning storms. The environment was characterized by very hot and humid conditions as temperatures were in the 90’s and dewpoints in the lower 70’s. Explosive thunderstorm development occurred on this boundary shortly after 4 p.m. in the afternoon. A severe thunderstorm watch was issued for the area, highlighting the risk of hail up to 2.5 inches in diameter and thunderstorm wind gusts to 80 mph. One intense storm caught my eye near Okemah, Oklahoma and we soon intercepted this storm as it slowly progressed south along Highway 27 towards Wetumka, Oklahoma. The storm had numerous wall clouds along its path, had terrific structure at times, and impressive daytime cloud to ground lightning. Overall, it was an easy storm to keep up with due to its slow movement, even in an area where the terrain and road network was not the best for viewing and navigating. You can view my chase log from the day here:

As the sun set on the day, our group found ourselves cut off from getting back north as the storm lined out and became more outflow dominant, but we managed to sneak around the hail core and punch through the storm as we traveled back to Oklahoma City. We emerged on the northern side of the storm after sunset near the town of Holdenville and were treated to the amazing mammatus display that is shown in my photo, while anvil crawling lightning lit up the clouds at times. Treated to a site like this was an out of this world experience. I named the photo “War of the Worlds” because it seemed like an alien spaceship was going to land through the clouds over the wind farm. It was a surreal experience having the bubbly mammatus clouds laid out in front of us while being occasionally illuminated by the lightning. A few residents of Holdenville stopped to chat with us and enjoy the view and, as one gentleman mentioned, they had never seen a sight like this in their lives. 

If you would like to see more of my photos, videos, and chase logs, feel free to visit my website at