The MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida, which is home to the United States Central Command (CENTCOM) evacuated all military aircraft from the base prior to the arrival of Hurricane Idalia and one of the military planes evacuating experienced the rare St. Elmo’s Fire phenomenon.
In short, St. Elmo’s Fire is a plasma discharge that looks like blue lightning. I’ve included an actual definition of it below but first let’s get to the video…
The St. Elmo’s Fire in this video from Tampa isn’t the mesmerizing lightning storm just outside of the plane’s cabin, but it’s the blue plasma creeping up in the bottom corners of the windshield and near the wiper blades. Not to be lost in this is also how spectacular the lightning storm is.
All aircraft on the installation have been evacuated/secured in preparation for #HurricaneIdalia . During the evacuation, the 50th ARS recorded St. Elmo’s fire, a weather phenomenon in which luminous plasma is created in an atmospheric electric field. pic.twitter.com/tqUGhfm8iN
— MacDill AFB (@MacDill_AFB) August 29, 2023
Same video on YouTube if that is preferred over X, formerly known as Twitter:
St. Elmo’s Fire is also known as Witch’s Fire. I won’t begin to do it justice if I type out my own definition so here is how it’s defined from Britannica:
“Saint Elmo’s fire, luminosity accompanying brushlike discharges of atmospheric electricity that sometimes appears as a faint light on the extremities of pointed objects such as church towers or the masts of ships during stormy weather, or along electric power lines. It is commonly accompanied by a crackling or hissing noise.
St. Elmo’s fire, or corona discharge, is commonly observed on the periphery of propellers and along the wing tips, windshield, and nose of aircraft flying in dry snow, in ice crystals, or near thunderstorms. Various flight procedures, in addition to mechanical and electrical devices designed to reduce the accumulation of electrical charge, are utilized as safeguards in preventing or controlling these discharges.
There are some very cool videos on YouTube detailing and showcasing this rare phenomenon. AccuWeather has a great look at it:
Most of us will never see this in person in our lifetimes but thanks to YouTube and social media, should we ever encounter it in real life we might be able to identify the phenomenon having seen it previously online.