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An evening rainbow arches across a lavender pink sky in downtown Atlanta after a rare high-wind thunderstorm that occurred at sunset. (Photo by Andrew Evans, National Geographic Travel)

The Very Pink Skies of Atlanta

I could go to church or be in a music video.

Since the awesome Church Organ Karaoke was not happening at Sister Louisa’s Church of the Living Room and Ping Pong Emporium, I chose fame instead at the Apache Café.

B-roll meant that nobody would actually see my face on TV. Maybe it would be a slow-motion pan, all of us jumping up and down in the darkness while the small stage rocked under the weight of Atlanta’s latest Hip-hop band. But then maybe I would do something so crazy on camera, they would have to include my discernible close-up in the final edit and my face would make it on today’s Music Television, which is YouTube.

Either way, I’ll never know, because even though I made it to the club, I never saw the band. In a white cloud of plague-like proportions, the entire city of Atlanta disappeared in a summer storm so spectacular I was blinded by water and lightning.

No kidding, the wind was so strong, it turned the heavy rain into a whirling mist, like a screaming fog tornado was tearing through the city. Every other second, lightning forks shattered the sky, as if the heavens were shattering and breaking apart, over and over again.

And then, the strangest thing of all: In the midst of the crazy severe thunderstorm, the sun set, transforming the opaque screen of lightning and mist into an alien lavender glow that engulfed the whole of Atlanta. The sky was pink, the lightning was silver, and then, appearing like some weird summer omen, a nocturnal rainbow painted itself in a perfect arch, a pastel version of all seven hues presented so delicately after such a violent weather event.

By now I had forgotten about my two seconds of hip-hop fame. Instead, I wandered out into the street with my camera, chasing the rainbow (literally) until it became two rainbows in the sky. All the while, lightning continued to splinter silver-white, lighting up the entire sky like a pink lantern.

“How wonderfully weird!” I thought, snapping away, then remembering that I was standing unsheltered in the middle of Peachtree Street while lightning shot down all around me. The thunder boomed and I pondered if such an event had ever occurred before.

What conditions had to be in place for this to happen? The high winds that turned rain into a wall of white, the lightning to backlight the sky, the right moment of sunset to cast a colored glow against it all?

The following day I asked an Atlantan, “Does this happen a lot?”

“Uh huh,” she said. “In summer—when everything’s just right.”

And last night it was just right. I missed church and I missed being in a music video, and while I have a long list of places to check out and things to do in Atlanta, the thing I’m going to talk about most is that crazy pink double rainbow (at night!) with all that amazing lightning, and the most purple sky I’ve ever seen.

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Lightning bolts splinter across the lavender skies in downtown Atlanta, turning the nocturnal rainbow pink. (Photo by Andrew Evans, National Geographic Travel)