This video from a dashcam was taken July 24th, 2016 in Chicago. The slo-mo of the lightning hitting a pole near the vehicle is one of the most intriguing things I’ve ever seen. I’ve seen lot of videos that were of lightning strikes, but never one so close and with such detail.
The vehicle only suffered damage to the driver’s seat.
Funny how lightning can leave what appears to be a sh*t stain on something it doesn’t even hit.
Yep I’d be changing my jocks for sure .
Jolting too. Positively electrifying on top of everything else.
Slivered me Timbers
I would have required a seat replacement and a DECON shower.
It’s the Global Warming (TM) that slowed the camera’s motion.
First I’d say it, then I’d do it. Then I’d be looking for a pair of clean underwear.
Fascinating. My own close call with lightning happened about 1958. I was riding with friends when a thunderstorm approached. As the rain began to get heavier and the thunder coming very close after the flash we retreated to the stable. We were looking out at the space between the house and the stable (About 20ft) when a jagged streak of lightning slanted down over the roof of the stable (close thing) and struck the flowerbed between the buildings. The following must have happened very quickly but we all saw it. The lightning struck producing a little puff of soil and a crack like a whiplash to be drowned out almost instantly by the deafening thunder. If it had struck the stable…..
Has anyone else heard this ‘crack’? Never heard any mention of it since then.
Real slow-motion sometimes shows an ionization trail leading from the ground up. Once the ionized path is established there is a full discharge to ground.
My *guess* is that the crack you heard was the initial upwards ionization trail forming, and the boom the full discharge.
I’ve heard the crack from all the strokes I’ve been close to. High frequency sounds attenuate in air, so they get lost from thunderclaps pretty quickly.
It’s one reason high frequency sounds from wind turbines aren’t a problem but low frequency sounds are.
Have you ever noticed that thunder close by sounds nothing like thunder far away. Close by, thunder is a crack. Far away it’s a boom. I prefer the boom.
“Close by, thunder is a crack.”
I was within about twenty yards of a tree that got hit and split in half once.
It sounded like tearing canvas, but very, very loud.
The scary thing was, just before it hit my hair stood on end and all the hairs on my body prickled.
“Oh, sh1t” I thought…
I was looking out my kitchen window back in 1972, loved lightning storms, when suddenly the hairs stood up on my arm and a bright blinding flash zoomed past the second story window horizontally. I remember the smell of the Ionized air hitting me just before and the ZZZZZZTTTT ZZZZZTTTT sound then the Loud Boom.
It went to ground through the Rebar in the Concrete Block wall at the back of the apartment complex.
My close encounter happened in VietNam–Dec 1970. Had guard duty and was positioned in a tower with 2 other guys. Rain coming down sideways, and the three of us huddled under a poncho doing our best to keep ourselves, M-16’s and the M-60 dry. Sudden blinding flash–I thought someone had just taken our picture (little paranoia) except we were 30 feet in the air. Didn’t know what had happened, but as Bryan said, the smell, the hissing sound, and little blueish streaks of light running around the tower’s edges. I guess about 30 seconds went by when guys were running our way from the bunkers on either side of our position–expecting to find us all crispy. Our field phone was dead, and the guys in the bunkers were nearly deaf from the thunder, but being ground zero for the lightning strike, we never heard a sound. The triple rolls of concertina wire right in front of us had pulled the charge to ground–if not for that, the tower would have looked much like the pole in the video clip. I got to go home about a week later, thank god.
I was in a tiny little hut (about 10′ x 10′) on top of White Mountain peak (abt 14,000 ft elevation) in the White-Inyo mountains when lightning struck. The hut had 4 lightning rods, one at each corner, two of which had been hit so many times that they were reduced to about half their original length. I was only a few feet from the rod that got hit. Even though we were inside the hut, the sound (a crack) was so loud that I was completely deaf for about 20 seconds. Fortunately, the hearing came all of the way back. But I know what you mean by “crack.” I didn’t hear any thunder afterwards because of the deafness. The two folks who were with me also lost hearing for about the same length of time. One of them was holding something metal and ended up with a small burn on his hand but the metal object didn’t seem hot so we had no idea why.
“One of them was holding something metal and ended up with a small burn on his hand but the metal object ”
It’s basically an antenna. The breakdown voltage in dry air is about 10,000 volts per centimeter. Just before the lightning strikes the vertical gradient of electric charge rapidly increases; first place to reach 10,000 volts per centimeter starts the lightning; a pointed metal object concentrates charges and that’s why lightning rods are pointy.
Anyway, even a slight difference in conductivity or height above ground will result in attempts by electrons to equalize potential so you’ll be shocked by almost anything in the vicinity.
It’s also a bit like a capacitor. The lightning will discharge the electric field but you are still holding a metal object charged with electrons and no place to go, but now instead of trying to reach the cloud they are happy to return to ground right through your hand.
I walked the JMT in 1966. IIRC on Glen Pass a T-storm passed over us. We sheltered in a gully with a bit of an over-hang. The lightning struck the gully edge many times, showering us with rock flakes and setting our hardware to buzzing.
Has anyone else heard this ‘crack’?
Yes on one occasion. We had a set of underground labs in some WWII era bunkers on top of a hill. One lunchtime we encountered a very heavy thunderstorm, one of my colleagues ran from the one bunker to the office and we saw a lightning strike right next to him! He staggered and then finished the run to the office, he said that he felt like he was hit by a shockwave. I definitely recall the crack sound, I think it’s the expansion of the hot air exceeding the speed of sound.
Yes, and it’s also called the “crack” of lightning.
Reside in one of the lightning capitals of the world. Sometimes we get so many lightning flashes that you don’t even need a light to walk around the house.
There are lightning maps on the internet which show where the most lightning flashes occur.
Yes, several times. It is a bit like a ‘fizz’ and comes from the ‘leader’. If the sound is heard it means the strike is coming just NOW and very close. I used to live in an area with one of the highest lightning strike rates in the world. Overhead wires were common strike points. We used to install 170 Joule 270 volt varisters (about the size of a quarter) between every incoming wire and ground on equipment that needed protection, often inside the multi-plug extension cords. They would provide massive protection, dying in the attempt of course. They explode and smoke but provide nano-second protection above 270 volts by shorting the lines together.
Many years ago I was sitting in my bedroom at my computer, my back to the window, when somebody let off a shotgun 6″ behind my head. When I managed to peel myself off the ceiling, the house was dark, most of the electronics in my home were damaged. I looked outside and in the ground just outside the window was a jagged gash about 6″ deep and 8′ long, following the line of the pipe from my well to the house. The computer was surge-protected, but the strike had induced a current in the phone line that fried the modem. I was sitting about 8-10′ from where the strike hit
Imagine a mile long line of fire crackers going off simultaneously. If you are close to any point of the line, you should here what sounds like a normal firecracker going off but the rest of the firecracker’s sound will blend together and be delayed as sound only moves 1000 feet per second. Add to this all the echo of the air, clouds and ground and you can see why thunder is just the messy sound of a lot of “cracks” all going off as the same time.
And that, kids, is why we don’t shelter under trees in a thunderstorm.
Working in the SIerra Nevada of California we were working along a ridge at 7,000 feet. We found a number of red fir that had strips peeled off from lightening strikes and huge splinters embedded in the soil. A couple stood over eight feet (2.4 meters to the Imperially challenged) above the ground and were jammed in so firmly we could not get them out of the ground.
I grew up in an area where severe thunderstorms were not common. One summer, when I was a teenager, we had a really severe one come through the area one night. A local farmer lost over a dozen cattle because they had sought shelter from the rain under trees, and the trees were struck by lightning. The following weekend I happened to be at the livestock auction where this farmer was selling a bunch of his calves, including several that were offspring of the electrocuted cows. That was probably the most laughter I ever heard at a livestock auction, as the auctioneer kept making jokes about the “lightning-susceptible” versus “lightning-resistant” calves.
Looked to me like someone holding the camera (smart phone perhaps?). A dash cam would be fixed and would not have lowered to show the sticker on the windshield toward the end of the clip.
Either way much closer than I ever want to be.
The perspective was uncanny Myron. I had the sense their dashcam was dangling from the rearview mirror as there was no flinching jerk when it struck. Come to think of it, I didn’t hear any whelps or gasps either. Regardless, if this video is real – it captures a close encounter with nature at its finest.
Nearest I have been was off the coast of Nigeria. The strike blasted the fibre glass VHF aerial off the main mast. What a crack!
Way back before portable video cameras, I saw lightning hit a power pole next to the road at almost the exact same distance. The pole survived intact, but the top of the pole-mounted transformer blew completely off in a HUGE shower of sparks. Like being right next to a 4th of July firework.
I won’t hazard a guess if any the following applies to utility poles, but I’ve noticed live trees have a species-dependent response to lightning.
Eastern hemlocks explode, not quite as dramatically as this utility pole, but similarly. Apparently the current from the lightning bolt travels down the core of the tree and boils the moisture there producing the pressure that makes for such an impressive result.
Red oaks respond very differently, current flows through the cambium, the layer between xylem (brings water and mineral up to leaves, becomes the core) and phloem (takes sugar to the roots, becomes bark). This results in a strip of bark, about three inches to 10 cm wide, getting blown off from the tree. The tree often dies anyway but remains standing until it rots or someone harvests it for his wood stove.
Thanks for that, Ric. I’ve seen quite a few trees with long strips knocked out by lightning, but have never seen one exploded like this pole. Different species, of course, and you have to be there when it happens, or there’ll be nothing to see.
I too have seen the spiral track of lightning down ponderosa pines. It doesn’t seem to harm the larger trees unless a fire starts in the duff at the bottom of the tree. I do remember coming across a strange site on top of a ridge near Castle Crags State Park in northern California that topped my list of weird lighting. As I was hiking I began to find sherds of wood and bark on the ground. Like something that had come out of a wood chipper. But we were at +2,500 meters and nary a chipper around. As I began to take in the whole scene, I realized that the wood and bark debris was evenly distributed around a 1/2 Meter tall stump of a fir tree that was about 30 CM in diameter. Apparently the tree had been hit by lightning and, like an egg in a microwave, exploded in all directions.
I’ve seen several “exploded” trees in Montana after a severe thunderstorm. They looked rather like enormous shaving brushes. Unfortunately I didn’t check what species of fir it was. May well have been Western Hemlocks.
In May, we had two strikes hit our property. Fortunately I shutdown the computers after the first. The second hit an oak tree 200 feet away as I stood on the porch. I can honestly say I have seen “the white light.” It destroyed two 11 KVA transformers, phone cable, a 1″ water line in two places, controller for well pump, and blew a chunk of concrete out of my garage apron. The slivers from the tree were 18 inches long and flew 50 feet. The ground at the tree’s base was blown out. The steel cover for the phone pedestal flew 8 feet. We got lucky. Lightning is fickle. I did a lot of digging over two weeks to fix the water line. Seek cover in a storm.
As a ‘newbie’ here, Lightning — in and of itself — is a natural phenom. occurring all over the World thousands(??) of times an hour(??). (Right????)
If the much-cherished principle held by Environmentalists that the mathematical singularity of the flap of a butterfly-wing in Curacao can create a Cyclone in — say — Cuba, surely the effect of the mathematical singularity of a lightning-strike in Chicago (or Chaffsville, Sask.) is immeasurably greater for Cambodia, Canada and Cameroons. Surely, the Ruling Law of Atmospheric Science is — Chaos!
I’d like to see the contorted logic of the Alarmist Scientists applied to harnessing lightning-strike-data as evidence of “Global Warming”. (I wonder if they have data on lightning-strikes going back thousands of years for them to mannipulate evidence of anthropogenic influence? Maybe proxies thereof anyone?!)
For your reading pleasure. If you can find the original, read it before the wiki.
by Ray Bradbury: “A Sound Of Thunder” is a story first published in Collier’s magazine (June 28, 1952)
“I wonder if they have data on lightning-strikes going back thousands of years”
There are actually fossil lightning strikes. They are called “fulgurites”
Note, the strike emanated from the TOP of the pole, upward. If you can stay within a “pole radius” of a utility pole, the lightning will emanate from the LIGHTNING LINE on the top of the pole. (That’s what it is there for.)
Thus affording a reasonable chance of keeping YOU from being the starting point… (which will kill you).
I wouldn’t bet my life on that. The best advice is to avoid being anywhere near a lightning strike. link
One way to be killed or injured involves ground currents. The current flows away from the strike through the ground. At any two points on the surface of the ground there will be a potential difference (ie. voltage). Because of this, current can flow up one of your legs, through your body and down the other leg.
Remember, the advice is not “don’t touch a tree”. The advice is, “don’t be under a tree”. That also applies to utility poles, even if they have lightning protection. Lightning is a nasty, nasty transient. That means you have to consider inductance and capacitance and magnetic fields and electrostatic fields. Most of the people killed when lightning strikes trees aren’t actually touching those trees.
The safest place to be is inside something that will act like a Faraday cage.
Mountaineering: Freedom of the HIlls by The Mazamas has the best compendium of advice collected over many man-years. Caught in open country, squat, hug your knees, keep your head down and feet as close together as possible.
Please tell me they were planning to put a wind turbine on that pole.
Definitely a sphincter-factor of nine.
I was 12 or so, camping with my troop at Forestburg Scout Reservation when I had my close encounter. I was standing in front of one of the tents, and about 5-8 feet on the backside of the tent was the unfortunate tree. I remember seeing white, blue, yellow and orange light and maybe plaid for all I know since I happened to be looking right at the tree when it was struck. It peeled the bark of in a spiral to 5 feet or so above the ground. As exciting as it was for me, only 20 feet or so away, my buddy was IN the tent and maybe 10 feet away from ground zero!
Well, been in plenty of summer thunderstorms out on Lake Michigan off Chicago in my former sailboat. Worried about wind gusts much more than lightning. Boat was designed so that all the stainless steel mast guys ran to ground in the massive cast iron winged keel (only 8 foot draft rather than 12 with a regular keel) through chain plates imbedded in the nonconducting fiber glass hull. As long as you stayed inside that Faraday cage and did not touch anything conductive, no problem except for the boom. Boom was a big problem a few times. Never fried the electronics or the engine. Same inside an airplane. Faraday cages are saviors. Basic physics works.
I sailed small boat in and around Charleston, SC, and was amazed by the LOW frequency of notable lightning strikes to masts.
I noticed two odd things: The people in the car did not react vocally, almost as if they weren’t really aware it happened. And the two white street lights up ahead continued to burn (flicker in SloMo) for a while after the pole exploded, then went out. Otherwise, it was not unlike any other lightning strike a few dozen feet away. 😉
In lineman speak, the lights remaining on/flickering may be due to a 3-shot setting on the breaker. A three shot means the circuit will remain or come back on three times before it cuts out. Happens very fast. Depends on the circuit. A one shot setting cuts out and stays out at the first indication of a ground fault. A one shot is set when men are working the line. A lightening arrester directs the load to ground through a graphite conductor.
Many many years ago in the wee hours of the morning a nasty storm rolled through and lightning struck the tree in our backyard that was about 25 feet from the house (the tree was a large hybrid poplar). It sounded like an explosion. It pretty much was. It was so dark and pouring down rain we couldn’t see what happened right after. It wasn’t until later in the morning we got the full picture. The tree was blown to smithereens from the inside out. There were pieces of all sizes covering everything everywhere. Pieces were on other people’s properties as well all around us up and down the street blocks. What a clean up that was. A large piece pierced the roof on the detached garage. The roof on the house also got damaged some. The crazier bit was some of the lightning jumped to the electrical wiring in the garage about 10 feet from the tree. It burnt a hole right through the wood siding and went into a junction box. From there it traveled through the wiring back into the house and zapped several electronic items. It boogered up the electric service panel too. That was replaced. I think everything was covered by insurance except the damage to the garage (repairs came out of his own pocket for that). My dad replaced the entire roof on the garage with the help of a good friend of his. It was also completely rewired by an electrician.
Crazy experience overall and one I’ll never forget for the rest of my life. I can still remember being half asleep when it happened and it woke me right up. The TV still on in my room and as soon as it happened the picture went to static. The lightning had fried the amplifier for the antenna, lol.
I had cattle killed by lightning that had struck a long way away from them, but current ran along a barbed wire fence and hit cows scratching themselves.
Obviously there needs to be a ban on lightning. Of course, they will have to raise taxes for the new “Lightning Prohibition Agency”.
They also produce the same chemicals the Volkswagen diesel cars produce when are tuned to run at high temperatures. (ozone and nitrogen oxides) but at higher quantities. The only difference is that you cannot sue nature.
Thanks for sharing Anthony. It’s a shame that more urban residents don’t get to witness the the power of nature directly like that just because of the topography of big cities. No wonder our ancestors placed a thunderbolt in the hands of our leading deities.
I noticed the phone chatting or whatever too, like so distracted the person didn’t even notice. Maybe it was the radio.
I never was scared of lighting until I moved to Florida, Gee the thunder storms down here quite something compared to New York or Vermont.
Central Florida is the lightning capitol of the nation. The lightning systems,which I supervised,at the Space Shuttle launch pads were struck on average 12 times a year. A typical strike would measure between 20-35 KA. This was all recorded by over a dozen cameras. So in some NASA archive somewhere there are lots of lighting strike videos.
Anyway my 2 cents on lightning.
When lightening strikes CLOSE you hear a sharp crack prior to the boom. Sort of like a bullet passing close before the sound of the report.
Not sure whether the higher pitch of the crack travels faster or if the boom comes at the end of the strike. A close one (75-100 yards) has the sound of a crack-boom.
No need to worry about it because if you heard it then it’s over and you’re alive to tell about it. I don’t think you would hear it if it got you. Anyway, it’s one of life’s experiences if you’re blessed with it.
The crack is the sound which arrives at your ears from the part of the bolt at ground level.
The boom is sound which comes from higher up along the bolt, the sound transformed by distance of travel.
That makes sense.
It wasn’t a dashcam… but it was a cool shot!
Here is a link to my five favorite lighting shots from MY dashcam this year:
I had two encounters with lightning when I was a teen. I was standing about 20 feet from a metal light tower watching a game at our local minor league ball park when it was struck by lightning. It felt like every muscle in my body relaxed and I found myself flat on the ground. When I was able to look up, I discovered that almost everyone else was on the ground, too, including the players on the field.
The second time was when I was camping with my family on the Canadian coast of Lake Superior. My father wanted to pitch our tents under some trees on one side of the road. My sister and I insisted that we wanted to be on the other side of the road closer to the lake. Later, two older men, brothers, put their tent where my father was going to put ours. That night, lightning struck one of the trees and killed one of the brothers who had left the tent to check the lines and stakes.
Later, when I was a student naval aviator, I was on a solo flight during the build up of a storm in Meridian, MS. I had just departed to practice touch-and-go landings when they executed a student solo recall. Because I was last to take off, I would be last to land. I set up at 2,000 feet over the outlying field where I was going to practice landings, just in case I needed to land before I was called back to the air station. As I waited, the storm closed in and the ceiling started to drop. That made things interesting, because I was not instrument qualified and had to maintain visual flight rules. It was getting harder and harder to see the field below me. Then I started to see ball lighting rolling up the nose and over the canopy, about a foot over my head, of the T2C jet trainer I was flying. There is a lot of controversy concerning ball lightning, but I know what I saw. It was not St. Elmoe’s Fire, which is stationary. It was shaped like a ball and moving very fast. Pretty exciting at the time.
I eventually left the flight program because there were too many students from my year group, but I had a few interesting experiences as a student aviator. This was not the most exciting one.
I had a ball lightning encounter as a passenger in a 737 shortly afer takeoff from CLE in an intense blizzard (I was actually surprised the pilot went for it – runway visbility was minimal, perhaps less than 100 yards). Shook the whole aircraft, and caused a brief flicker in the power systems, and a very loud bang, and whiteout flash outside the aircraft (actually blueish then yellowish). We were through the cloud and into sunshine at perhaps just 5,000ft before the pilot came on to admit what happened: he claimed to have experienced it a couple of times before, but admitted it was the most dramatic of his encounters.
I almost did a double post non no, but thought better of it and figured out what should have been an hopefully more appropriate way to accomplish my mission, i.e. to garner expert feedback, that is not encouraged on Tips and Notes. If I’d known Anthony was going to post his lightning thread the next afternoon after my video post, I would have placed mine here. I’ll not repeat my discussion nor repost my video, but would appreciate some ideas on what that captured phenomena is. My first very amateur and intuitively derived guess is that it is some sort of negatively charged plasma ball that is propelled by a strong atmospheric electrical flux in the vicinity of the thunderstorm toward the positively charged ground – or along those lines. Fast moving ball lightning?
Amazing! Though it’s a little odd that an Art Director at an advertising firm just happens to be recording in slow-motion when lightning strikes nearby. My primitive calculations suggest the slow motion footage was done at around 300fps which isn’t too far off from the 240fps capability of some smartphones and digicams. It looks more real than anything I’ve seen coming out of Hollywood. I’m a bit skeptical but I guess I wouldn’t be here if I wasn’t.
Since the topic of ball lightning has come up……
When I was about 14 (1950’s), I along with about 100 other people, were outside watching a field hockey game.
A thunder storm rolled in, and there was some sheet lightning at high elevation.
Suddenly, we noticed a bright spherical light about the size of a basket ball descend from the sky at one end of the field. It progressed slowly down the length of the field, and the game stopped as we watched this.
However, one of the players had her back to this light, and was unaware of it. It came up to her, progressed down the length of her hockey stick, exited her chest, and continued down the field. At the other end, it slowly drifted upwards until it disappeared into the clouds.
The girl was pronounced dead at the scene.
The subsequent report of the incident claimed “mass hysteria”, and said the girl had died of a heart attack brought on by the exertion of the hockey game.
As far as anyone has been able to tell, there has never been a video recording made of any such thing as ball lightning.
I would like to see one if any such film exists.
Absent an explanation of what that stuff you saw might actually consist of, I find myself dubious.
Sorry to say so, but lots of people have seen UFOs too, and many of those are actually on video.
Even rare sights like meteors screaming through the atmosphere are captured on camera often.
There are cameras everywhere these days.
Where is all the ball lightning?
I believe you are mistaken regarding ball lightning.
If you google “ball lightning in laboratory”, numerous hits come up.
Evidently, ball lightning has been created in the lab, and this suggests that it can exist naturally.
Regardless of that, I stand by my report of my youthful experience.
Did you watch my video I posted the link back to? If it’s not fast moving ball lightning, what is it? Technically, it could be called a “UFO” , but not in a context of being anything unnatural. Here is another example taken from a distance by a fellow – appears at about 35 seconds. Like my video, it’s in the vicinity of, but not within the storm. Other examples I’ve seen are in the storm.
I’m just looking for answers. If I have to, I’ll start calling people at the National Weather Center. Someone, maybe a student, will be interested in seeing it. I certainly would accept a “yes I’ve seen that before, but they don’t really know what it is”.
I was remiss in not mentioning how spectacular Anthony’s post was, btw. No intention to distract from that fact.
Where is your other video? I don’t see it.
Your most recent video showing a storm in Soux Falls shows atmospheric conditions very much as I remember them to have been during the incident of my childhood.
The major difference was the ball of lightning drifted down at a very leasurely pace, and then slowly drifted up the field. Ie: it all happened very slowly.
1968/9 in Adelaide city a massive storm was underway, a bolt of lightning took out a huge pillar on the corner of a pub some blocks away and we suspect one of the “sideshoots” was what came through the wall of the corrugated lean-to we had as a kitchen and hit the back of the (luckily) wooden handled knife my mum was using. mum and knife sure jumped high!
I am still using the knife some 50 yrs later and the mark is still there although worn by time n use;-)
next one was me going out to the tank for water in a storm..lightning hit the ground in the next yard and I sure copped a fizzy charge..felt pretty much” beside myself” for a day afterwards
Obama’s Climate Goals Undermine U.S. Financial and National Security
Very common to see trees blown apart by lightening, simple process, any moisture in the wood is instantly turned to steam with explosive expansion resulting.
Car antenna, windshield wiper, and sticker indicate right side of vehicle. Camera not fixed. Very end of video someone says “HOLY…” as car comes to a stop.
Lucky with capture of lightning strike and not having startled tailgater.
RE: William, July 30, 6:10 pm.
Here – I referred to this above(July 28, 10:41pm). It was posted on Tips and Notes the day previous to Anthony’s spectacular video post.
As I stated on T&N, I am speculating that the ball of plasma( whatever its genesis) in these examples could have been accelerated by a strong atmospheric electrical flux in the vicinity of the storm
My mother as a child was watching a storm out on the back porch of her home, when lightning struck a tree and sent a bright globe of glowing gas at her. She woke up on her back, but apparently unharmed, though terrified of lightning thereafter. Based on the video I posted here and my own that I posted at T&N, I’m now wondering if that “lightning strike” was not in fact a ball phenomena all the way originating spontaneously in the atmosphere as these her appear to have. Based on your recounting, she was a very lucky little girl – as am I 😉 !
As I stated on T&N, I am speculating that such balls of plasma(? whatever its genesis) could be accelerated by a strong atmospheric electrical flux in the vicinity of the storm in these cases.
OOPS Apologies, I “copied” instead of “cut” when I moved the text from the end to the middle of my comment, and failed to notice it.
I live in Fl and am outdoorsy so I have been around several very close lightning strikes including ball lightning.
My first encounter with Ball lightning was witnessed by myself and my sister. After a passing thunderstorm, we were walking along the edge of a lake. We saw a glowing yellow/white sphere appear about 25′ up over the lake about 50′ away from us. We ran. It moved parallel toward the shore and suddenly made a right angle turn and went right overt our heads hitting a pine tree to our left. It exploded setting the tree aflame and raining burning debris on us.
I’ve been outside in a serious T-storm sitting under a picnic shelter in deep woods. I felt uneasy so pulled me feet off the ground and sat on the table bench. Felt more uneasy so sat on the table top with my legs pulled up. Felt more uneasy so balanced on one foot crouched on the table top (all this under a dry picnic shelter with a dry concrete floor.) Suddenly, lightning struck 6′ in front of me to the dry concrete of the picnic shelter floor. I could not tell where it came from but I think it may have leaped from an outlet on the shelter support to the floor. Tremendous noise like (POW), not the usual type of thunder.
During a thunderstorm, I’ve seen a glowing ball emerge from the bathroom water sink drain (it was about 1″ diameter) and move upward and to the left where it touched the tap and vanished with a loud “CRACK” leaving a melted spot on the tap handle.
After a childhood filled with lightning, I majored in Physics and my Masters Thesis was on some applications of Electrostatics so I know enough to be scared to death of lightning.
In my business, we are in a metal building and there is a cell tower just up a hill about 50′ from us. LIghtning hits this cell tower fairly often. At least once a year, it then seems to go down hill to our building and then comes into the building on the grounding system. It has burned out pumps, destroyed an old electron microscope (set the outlet on fire) and desytroyed some of the building wiring. I tell my employees to step away from machinery during storms and take a break. All of our computers have wireless mouses because I have seen large sparks jump from a computer to a grounded outlet during a storm.
In my neighborhood, all the houses have their own wells with downhole pumps. Such wells get hit very often burning out the pump. My neighbor has such a well totally below the surface with no sign of the well above surface but lightning has hit the grass over the well three times destroying the pump.
AS an avid sailor, I’m scared to death of lightning so I once calculated the rough probability of a lone sailboat with a 45′ mast being struck while under such a thunderstorm as being about 5-11%. A perusal of insurance statistics very roughly bears this out.