Storm chaser’s incredible pic of ‘gates of hell’ thunderstorm

A storm chaser has revealed an incredible picture of a thunderstorm that looked like the ‘gates of hell’ – moments before he was forced to run as it knocked his tripod over.

Mark McNeill had been monitoring the weather last Wednesday at around 9.30pm, waiting to snap a shot of the coming storm on Lytham-St-Annes beach in Lancashire.

But the 43-year-old dad of three was forced to flee for shelter while ‘thinking of his wife and kids’ from what he describes as ‘mother nature in full force’ – by hiding under one of the beach huts.

PIC BY NICK ISABELLA/MERCURY PRESS

Before he fled however, Mark managed to get an incredible snap of the rumbling thunderstorm racing towards him, in which the clouds appear like crashing waves.

Mark, from Preston, said: “It was exciting, but scary at the same time.

“I knew the storm was coming because I was tracking the weather with my phone. At one point, the camera was actually stuck in the sand but it still blew over.

“I remembered that it just looked like the sky was the same colour as the sea and the lightning was striking down over me.

“The lightning stuck about five hundred metres away and the storm was practically on top of me at one point.

“It was about that point I remembered that I had a family. A wife and kids waiting at home for me – so I took shelter under a beach hut.

“It honestly looked like the opening of the gates of hell – mother nature in full force.

“It’s called a tunnel cloud I think.”

In shot is the ruin of the Lytham Pier’s landing jetty.

PIC BY NICK ISABELLA/MERCURY PRESS

The pier was built in 1885 and the Floral Hall was a popular music hall venue boasting acts such as Gracie Fields and George Formby during the 1940s.

Landscape photographer Mark managed to capture the stunning majesty of the sea blues, and the sheer awe of British weather at its fiercest just off the Fylde coast – within striking distance of this piece of British cultural history.

Mark said: “The whole thing was very exciting.

“What’s really weird about the whole thing is that I could see the sun shining through the other side of the clouds – you can just about see it in the pictures.

“I think it’s what’s called a supercell. The whole think looked like a giant moustache from where I was looking.

“I remember I was looking on my phone. I use a weather tracking programme on the internet.

PIC BY NICK ISABELLA/MERCURY PRESS

“I saw it was coming nearer so I got my camera all set up on the tripod. The tripod was physically stuck in the sand to keep it stable.

“I braved it for as a long as I could but obviously I didn’t want to be hit by lightning. The storm was so powerful it blew my tripod over.

“I ran as quickly as I could back up the beach with my camera and tripod and took shelter under a beach hut.

“The whole thing was really scary. I suppose I’d call myself a mini-storm chaser. That’s because ordinarily I play it safe by taking photos across the Lake District.”

Mark has been doing photography for more than ten years. He studied at the Open University and now is in the process of entering for a Licentiateship with the Royal Photographic Society.