Lightning Surprise

Over 2,000 lightning strikes in under a few hours was enough to make a major news item for the region, and Whidbey caught a lot of it. Mother Nature’s free fireworks put on a surprising show several days ago. Even Midwesterners noticed.

In most parts of the country, lightning is worth mentioning, but it is also not mentioned much. It’s natural and common, and worth reporting about so folks will know to come in out of the rain. So why all the fuss around the Puget Sound? We rarely gets strikes, and it is even rarer for the storm to last for hours. There are reasons for that.

Screenshot 2019-09-12 at 14.20.34

from: The Weather Channel

Take a look at the US lightning map. South Florida gets hit the most. (Ironic, considering that’s the US’ main space port.) Draw a diagonal from the southeast to the northwest and watch the probability drop to almost nothing. The hints are in the names. South: think tropics, or at least sub-tropics, lots of sunshine, lots of warm water currents off-shore, and the Great Plains and Tornado Alley providing unstable, warm, inland air to meet warm water vapor. Lots of conflicting air masses, electrical imbalances, flash, boom. And in the other corner. North: think cold, or at least cool, less sunshine, and far fewer named storms or tornado threats. There’s just not enough energy in the air to create energetic snaps. The oceanic influence is so strong that the region of frequent strikes reaches from Virginia to Texas, while the entire west coast is electrically benign. The Southeast gets the most. The Northwest gets the least.

For folks fleeing big storms, the Pacific Northwest can seem like a haven. Locals know the Pacific Ocean is not a pacific ocean, and it does produce large storms; but it is the other corner of the country that gets busy with headline weather.


from Cliff Mass

In some ways it was the best of storms. Loud, boisterous, obvious, and happened at night which made it easier to watch the flashes.

In some ways it was a storm, and storms aren’t always nice. Indoor and outdoor flooding happened. Pets weren’t pleased. Events were cancelled.

Watching the storm was fun, for those it didn’t hit too hard. Equally fun was listening to everyone’s stories. How did it compare to the Midwest? (Busy, but not as busy as places where the lightning is so continual that headlights seem optional.) When was the last time such a storm hit? (20 years ago) Did you get any good photos? (Social media has definitely been busy with some awesome captures.)

That seems to be enough to end the typical summer drought. The Burn Ban signs are still up, but that will change soon. We’re in the transition from hot and dry to windy and wet. Autumn is near. November is our wettest and stormiest month. September and October are the time to enjoy some warm and sunny days, then dash inside as the first storms come through. So, if you’re not getting chores done, or sneaking in that last hike; you’ve got stories to tell and share with friends. Just don’t be surprised if someone from Orlando scoffs a bit.

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