Lightning is extremely dangerous, leading many people to take cover and avoid potentially being struck by lightning during a thunderstorm. While most individuals realize the tremendous danger of being caught in a thunderstorm with lightning, what may not be known is that lightning can strike on a cloudless day. In spite of the assumption that there has to be a thunderstorm in the immediate location for an individual to be struck by lightning, it simply is not true. An individual can be struck and not only injured, but even killed on a perfectly cloudless day.
Lightning on a cloudless day
The phenomenon of seeing or being struck by lightning on a cloudless day may seem like a rare or new occurrence but it is not. In fact, lightning on a cloudless day dates back to ancient history. Lightning suddenly striking from out of nowhere in a cloudless sky can be found in Virgil’s "Georgics," Book 1 , where it was written that several unusual events occurred after the assassination of Caesar…"Never fell more lightening from a cloudless sky; never was comet’s alarming glare so often seen." This is just one example of observation of lightning on a cloudless day, even in ancient times.
More recently, in 2007, a landscaper was struck by lightning and killed on a sunny day without a cloud in the sky. Digital Journal reported that a meteorologist from the National Weather Service in Miami, Florida said that an afternoon storm was forming, but not near the area where 41 year old David Canales was working. In another similar incident, 11 year old Britney Wehrle was walking with a friend on a clear sunny day with no clouds in the sky. Unexplainable Enterprises explains that lightning suddenly struck Britney, who “collapsed to the ground.” Britney sustained multiple injuries related to the lightning striking her, but fortunately, she lived. Even Martha Stewart says that she has been struck by lightening on a clear day.
How lightening can strike on a cloudless day
Lightening expert Joe Dwyer answered questions for NOVA on PBS about lightning and explained how lightening can strike from a cloudless sky. Dwyer says that lightning has the capability to travel many miles, even beyond the range of thunder. It can travel to areas where there are blue skies and a person can be struck from “bolts from the blue.” Bolts from the blue is the phrase used to describe lightning bolts that strike out of the blue, where there are no clouds seen and no thunder heard.
Bolts from the blue are very deadly because they form differently. Lightning that forms during a thunderstorm are negatively charged but the bolts from the blue carry a positive charge and carry a much higher current. The lightening bolts that occur on a cloudless day lasts longer and reach further than regular lightening, says Dan Dixon.
The National Weather Service in Pueblo, Colorado shows “classic examples” of “Bolts from the Blue.” The National Weather Service says these lightning bolts have been documented as traveling a full 25 miles from the thunderstorm cloud. Naturally, when there is a thunderstorm, it may still be very sunny and not a cloud in the sky at such distance from a thunderstorm with lightning. The photos allow for a deeper understanding of Bolts from the Blue and the distance they can travel, potentially imposing extreme danger to individuals many miles away who may be enjoying a perfectly sunny day without a cloud in the sky