Croatian Extreme Weather Fan Loves to Hunt Lightning

By 4 September 2018

With tornadoes few and far between, Croatian extreme weather fans are more likely to turn to other phenomena.

While many try to stay away from lightning and thundering, Sendi Smoljo from Pula looks forward to them and tries to take a photo, reports Jutarnji List on September 4, 2018.

He is looking forward to the coming autumn. “The sea is warm and the cold air is coming. When they meet, there will be storms.” He lives in an eight-story building on whose roof he climbs much more often than his other neighbours. “I can enjoy a beautiful view of the town, the entire Pula bay and the Učka mountain. When the wind cleans the air, I can see the Dolomites and Apennines. They are about 200 kilometres away”.

Smoljo regularly follows US tornado hunters. He is a Facebook friend with some of them, following their live streams. “They are technically well-equipped and have all these devices which follow the weather situation.”

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He first became interested in meteorology in 2012. In the meantime, he has learned a lot from other Istrian fans of lightning. In 2014, he won the first place at a photo competition in the United States. He still remembers his first hunt. “It was August 10, 2013. I was awake all night, waiting, watching the radar and satellite imaging. It was a small storm in the Kvarner Bay. When I saw it approaching, I picked up my camera, went to the roof and took photos for half an hour. It was unforgettable.”

He warns everybody to be very careful. “If you are near a repeater or an antenna, it is clear that they are objects which increase the chance of a lightning strike. It happened several times that a lightning hit them while I was up, on the roof of the building. When a lightning strikes very close, your lungs begin to be squeezed, the heart starts beating faster, you feel the electricity. Of course, the fear is always present, the closer it hits, the more adrenaline I feel,” he said.

“I want it to hit as soon as possible and as close as possible, but not too close. I want to make the best possible shot. I am fascinated by the power of nature. You can become addicted to it, it is almost a kind of legal drug. If you are planning a lightning hunt, you need to monitor forecasting maps in advance, but not for too long, because their accuracy is then questionable. Pula is in such a position that storms often go around it, but when they hit, they hit the town strongly.”

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He finds it easy to get up in the middle of the night in order to make a good photo. “I have a fairly well-developed sense of hearing, I can literally hear thunders from Italy, across the sea, some 60 to 70 kilometres away. I believe most people would hear it, but they do not pay attention.”

He is 27 years old and is a confectioner by training, although he works as a security guard. He would love to go to America to hunt tornadoes. “They are extremely powerful. I sincerely feel sorry for the people whose homes are hit by them, but I am fascinated by their power. The beauty of a tornado in its appearance and shape, sometimes they are up to 800 metres wide. We do not have them here, but instead, we have twisters. I have managed to film four of them simultaneously in one shot,” concluded Sendi.

Translated from Jutarnji List.