When lightning strikes

Paul Huttner’s tied up (not literally) at the Weather Lab today, so I went traipsing off to the YouTube well in search of something fresh for the blog.

The above video was shot on Saturday by “cheliman1” of Hydetown, Pa. Nothing spectacular, really – a run-of-the-mill thunderstorm with some neat cloud formations. Then you hit about 3:15 into the video, and a bolt of lightning strikes maybe 20 or so feet away from the camera.

As a non-meteorologist, there were several things about this that I found fascinating:

  • * It’s been such a quiet summer in Minnesota that we have to look to Pennsylvania for storm footage
  • * The lightning bolt looks really small up close
  • * There is neither profanity nor loud proclamations of “WOOO!” when the lightning hits. Just a quiet “Did you get that?”

Also, note that the lightning bolt ignores the trees, power poles and an unknown number of golfers who may or may not be standing outside of the frame. The tallest structure near the strike is either the gazebo in which the storm-watchers are standing, or the nearby wooden fence. When I started watching the video, I expected the power pole across the street to bite the dust. You can’t outsmart nature.

Since the last Updraft update on lightning safety a few weeks ago, at least eight more people have been killed by lightning strikes in the U.S., according to the National Weather Service. On average, fewer than one-third of those victims were standing under a tree.

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