How Long Are Lightning Bolts?

Oklahoma might be the place "where the wind comes sweepin' down the plain," but it's also the place where a lightning bolt set a record by stretching nearly 200 miles in 2007. The ability to measure the length of lightning is a relatively new development, and it was put to use to measure a single strike that covered an astonishing 199.5 miles (321 km) -- almost the entire width of the state of Oklahoma. The work to accurately measure the bolt was undertaken by the World Meteorological Organization, which relied on newly developed high-tech remote sensing techniques. The findings confirmed what meteorologists have long believed: Lightning can reach distances far from the originating storms, and people need to protect themselves even if they think a storm is too far away to present any danger. The United States withstands approximately 25 million lightning strikes every year, which kill dozens of people and injure hundreds more.

A look at lightning:

  • A single lightning bolt is more than five times hotter than the surface of the sun.
  • Despite the saying, lightning can strike the same place more than once; for example, the Empire State Building is hit by lightning dozens of times every year.
  • Florida is the most lightning-prone U.S. state and even has a so-called "Lightning Alley" between Tampa and Orlando.
More Info: Time magazine

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