Science Questions

Does lighning ever strike the same place twice?

Sun, 17th Dec 2006

Part of the show The Christmas Q & A Show


Lucy via email asked:

Is it true that lightning never strikes in the same place twice?


I'd say probably it's not true. Especially if you have a tall building or something pointy on top of a mountain it actually is much more likely to hit something that it's struck before. Because it tends to hit sharp things. The empire state building that's in New York in America got hit 15 times in 15 minutes a few years ago. So there's evidence that lightning certainly does strike the same place far more than once. 15 times, in fact. Because it's always trying to find the easiest way down to earth. And if there's an easy way made handy, it will use it every time.

Kat - I never realised this but aeroplanes can get struck by lightning. I had to fly to Glasgow and a friend of mine was on the next flight and got struck by lightning! Crazy!

Chris - It happens with a frequency of about once in every 10 years, in an aeroplane's lifetime. A friend of mine flew to America. He was already late for his flight, he finally got on the aeroplane, it was delayed landing by an hour and a half because the storm was so bad around Chicago, and then his plane got hit by lightning, and then it got hit by lightning again, so twice in the space of about ten minutes! And then they did land, and because all the flights had been grounded there were no hotels. So he ended up having to spend the night in a five star hotel which was the only thing that had any rooms left over and it cost him about 500 quid. Then he finally did get his connecting flight to the conference he was going to, and he was so late he missed his talk.


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