Can lightning strike the same place twice?

Contrary to the common expression, lightning can and often does strike the same place twice.

By Author  |  Published: 25th Sep 2020  6:52 pm

Lighting tends to strike the highest and pointiest object, because it is an electrical current being attracted to the easiest path.

If a church steeple is on a hill, it is going to be struck many times. The Empire State Building in New York City gets struck by lightning 100 times a year according to the National Weather Service. One spot on the Catatumbo River in Venezuela receives thousands of lightning strikes a night (many of them cloud to cloud).

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Lightning is an electrical discharge caused by imbalances between storm clouds and the ground, or within the clouds themselves. Most lightning occurs within the clouds.

“Sheet lightning” describes a distant bolt that lights up an entire cloud base. Other visible bolts may appear as bead, ribbon, or rocket lightning.

During a storm, colliding particles of rain, ice, or snow inside storm clouds increase the imbalance between storm clouds and the ground, and often negatively charge the lower reaches of storm clouds. Objects on the ground, like steeples, trees, and the Earth itself, become positively charged — creating an imbalance that nature seeks to remedy by passing current between the two charges.

Lightning is extremely hot — a flash can heat the air around it to temperatures five times hotter than the sun’s surface. This heat causes surrounding air to rapidly expand and vibrate, which creates the pealing thunder we hear a short time after seeing a lightning flash.