Fatal Duluth lightning strike & storm captured on video

A 9-year-old Iron River, Wis. boy was killed by lightning near Duluth on Saturday.

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This may have been the lightning strike that killed a 9-year-old boy and injured six others in Duluth Saturday.

Source: Daniel Thralow via You Tube

1st (and hopefully last) lightning fatality in Minnesota in 2012

23 lightning fatalities in the USA so far in 2012 (Source: NOAA)

54 lightning deaths on average each year in the USA (10 year average)

386,079 cloud to ground lightning strikes per year on average in Minnesota

Lightning tragedy captured on time lapse video:

The storm that killed 9-year-old Luke Voigt of Iron River, Wis. on Duluth’s Park Point Saturday blew up fast.

The storm intensified rapidly just after 5 p.m. as Daniel Thralow shot a time lapse video from Skyline Parkway above the Duluth harbor.

Watch as the storm produces multiple cloud to ground lightning strikes over Lake Superior near Park Point.

Daniel describes the sequence of events from his vantage point above Duluth.

This storm produced lightning that struck (or hit near) a 26 foot sailboat, 6 people were injured. And tragically, a nine year old boy died. There are five visible lightning strikes in this video. They occur at 5:19 PM, 5:25 PM, 5:30 PM, 5:37 PM and 5:38 PM. The strongest and most likely fatal strike seems to have been the one that occurred at 5:30 PM. That strike occurs at 0:33 to 0:34 in this video. Coast guard rescue boats are seen leaving the harbor at 5:40 PM.

One thing that surprised me was how far the bolt traveled horizontally. The NOAA.gov website states that a lightning flash can travel horizontally many miles away from the thunderstorm and then strike the ground or water. The strike at 5:30 PM, in this video, seems to have traveled about 2 or 3 miles horizontally


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Source: NOAA

Lightning: An underrated killer

I can’t imagine the grief the Voigt family is feeling after the unfortunate incident.

Lightning is often an underrated severe weather killer. You don’t need a hurricane, tornado or even severe thunderstorm to produce a lightning strike. Even garden variety thunderstorms produce numerous, potentially deadly cloud to ground flashes.

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Source: NOAA

Ron Holle is considered the world’s leading lightning researcher. I know Ron, and have interviewed him many times at the world headquarters of Vaisala Inc. in Tucson. Vaisala is the home of the National Lightning Detection Network… the hub for an amazing network of sensors that pinpoints cloud to ground lightning flashes (to within a few feet) in real time across the USA.

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Lighting strikes the ground 386,079 times on average in Minnesota each year. A high percentage of lightning fatalities and injuries occur outdoors on water, or while people seek shelter under trees. (Remember Hazeltine in 1991?)

Here’s a look at the (still to be updated) 2012 lightning fatalities from NOAA.

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Source: NOAA

Ron has described to me visual observations of lightning travelling sideways and striking ground over 30 miles away from storms. That’s one reason it’s so important to stay indoors when lightning storms are nearby, even if you can’t see the storm.

Looking at the flash density map for lightning in the USA, you can see Minnesota is on the northern edge of the higher density of lighting flash activity.

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Source: NOAA/Vaisala Inc.

About 5 people are injured for every fatality from lightning strikes. Here’s the latest from NOAA on stats and keeping safe from lightning.

It’s been a wild weather year in Duluth in 2012. First the flood, then the unique waterspout/tornado on August 9th, which was only the second tornado, recorded inside the Duluth city limits. Now, tragically, lightning has struck Duluth again both literally and figuratively.


  • Shauna

    I was surprised, in a good way, when I saw a severe weather alert on a TV in Florida a week ago. On the information scroll about the counties affected by strong thunderstorms, it said that lightning is the #1 weather-related killer in Florida each year, and provided examples of unacceptable ways to take shelter (for example, those little huts on golf courses). It was very informative!

  • joyce noyes

    We were on our boat, at a marina when the lightning struck the sailboat in Duluth. Where are you safest when you are at a marina in a storm like that?