The sight of the first raindrops sends many to seek shelter until the storm passes, but for three young Maltese men, it is the sign of an exciting night out. Steve Cutajar, Fredrick Muscat and Samuel Scicluna spend their free time chasing roaring storms, patiently waiting to photograph the powerful streaks of lightning.
With temperatures reaching 27°C to the delight of those who have not had enough of summer, this weekend was disappointing for the trio as a forecast storm did not make it even close to the island.
“We don’t tend to get a lot of storms, but given the island’s position in the Mediterranean, there is a bigger probability that the storms we do get are powerful,” said 31-year-old Mr Cutajar.
It was different interests that brought the trio together in 2012.
Mr Muscat, 37, has been chasing storms for some two decadesafter he was first encouraged by his cousin Jimmy Deguara, who is a renowned storm chaser in Australia.
He was contacted by Mr Cutajar through his own cousin and the two bumped into Mr Scicluna during a storm at Għajn Tuffieħa one day.
While Mr Cutajar is fascinated by weather in general, Mr Scicluna’s interest is more from a photographic aspect.
“Storm chasing is exciting as every lightning is different... but at the same time it could also be disappointing because predicted storms might just not happen,” Mr Scicluna, 26, said.
The season lasts from August or September until mid-December and sometimes drags on to March.
“We start the day knowing there is a storm on the way so we plan our equipment and check where it is coming from.
“We then shortlist good vantage points and wait for the storm to arrive,” Mr Cutajar said.
The three first go to the area where the storm is forecast to hit and when it gets close enough they retreat to another vantage point, sometimes even crossing from one side of the island to the other.
“While it’s approaching we’re already planning where it’s best to move to, to get the best pictures,” he added.
Cautioning against taking risks when the storm is right above, Mr Cutajar said they are not really scared of powerful storms.
The largest storm they documented together hit the islands last November when three storms, a Mediterranean cyclone, lasted from 11pm till 5am.
This year’s first storm of the season also proved exciting and the trio managed to capture lightning striking the Portomaso tower in St Julian’s.
It was the same day they launched their website http://stormchasersmalta.com/ to consolidate their work.
Meanwhile, the trio hope they will be able to chase storms abroad, like Tornado Alley in the south-central US.
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