Does Lightning Have an Affinity to a Certain Area?

       Does lightning have an affinity for a certain area?    The news has reported hundreds of fires ignited by dry lightning strikes in Northern California during the course of a day.    These strikes may be too scattered to ascribe affinity to certain locale,  but do I wonder about what's been happening in a small area near where I live. 
       I live near a stretch of four-lane highway between East Peoria and Metamora, Illinois, on higher ground than the nearby Illinois River valley.
       In 2007 the neighbor just across the lane from us had a tree hit by lightning.  At first she didn't realize the tree was hit but her lights were extinguished.   She was in darkness for a while, and looking outside, she noticed a greenish light up the lane and bluish light down it.  She described these as "acid green" and "electrical blue."  
       She called the utility company and an employee came out.  He had trouble restoring her lights and suspected a close lightning strike.   He suspected a maple tree close to the house.  He didn't find any evidence of its being struck, but a neighbor diagonally across the lane, later told her that she saw lightning actually strike her tree.    It had taken off some bark, on the side of the trunk away from the house.  
       Not only had it disabled her garage door opener, but it also affected electrical things in her neighbors' homes: it hit the computer of a neighbor on one side, and the television set of a neighbor on the other side.   Curiously, about  two days after the strike, there was also a fire on the electric line down the lane.  
       Something else that's curious is the story this neighbor tells of what happened to her father years ago.   He was in the bathroom and outside there was a pit dug for a septic system near the window.  A ball of fire came in through the screen and circled him, going from faucet to faucet, between the tub and sink.   Was this another form of lightning he saw?  A Scientific American article on the internet says most scientists are convinced of the reality of ball lightning.

     Just across an open area from this neighbor's back yard, in 2006, another neighbor's tree was hit, peeling bark down two sides (The photo to the left shows the side toward the road).   The owner believes the lightning bolt itself was split in two by the oak.     
       Some of the bark was blown onto the roof of his house and onto his garage, set back from the house.  It also blew out into the open area of the compound where he lives and flew across that into another neighbor's yard.  It took out his computer and a couple television sets.  He wasn't home at the time, but was vacationing in the Ozarks.
         The same tree may have been struck by lightning before...if so, so much for the notion that lightning doesn't strike the same place twice.  
      A short distance away, our lane connects to a frontage road, and up that frontage road past the yard with the bark-peeled tree -- about two-tenths of mile from us as the crow flies -- lightning
 struck another tree in 2007.  This tree was about seven feet from where the owner was sitting on the steps of a cement porch in front of his house.    
      Because of the storminess, his wife called him inside to shut off the computer.    Shortly after going inside, while he had his hand on the computer mouse, he was shocked...lightning struck the tree by the porch.  It ruined the computer and a television in another room of the house.   Outside it did more damage.  He figured the charge traveled along a branch hanging onto a gutter, followed the gutter and fascia to downspouts where the explosive force peeled away siding, near where he had been sitting.   The lightning also blasted off bark which flew onto the road in front of the house.  The owner wonders whether he might've been struck by a piece of bark if he hadn't gone inside.   One may also wonder whether the lightning might've jumped the gap from the house to him, striking him from above and behind.
       In 2008, maybe not even quarter mile from that house, lightning hit another one, setting it afire and doing major damage to the structure.   It now sits with protective blue sheeting on the roof. 
       It seems it's a common understanding that lightning will strike trees or tall objects.  They are, of course, closer to the sky.   But still one wonders about the string of strikes within proximity to one another.   It seems quite likely that one of them, the tree pictured here, was struck twice, for what else would account for the scar along the side?   The scar is even parallel to the recent strike.     
       Is there something about the area that attracts lightning?  Some affinity?   Or are these coincidental things?   I don't know but I wouldn't want to bet the farm that the tree shown here, wouldn't get more strikes than the two allowed in baseball.      JR

 Upper part of the tree pictured above.                                                         Other side, with a scar where it may've been struck before.


                                   Another Lightning Incident, Years Ago but Also in Proximity

      The word proximity certainly fits another lightning incident.  While not close in years to the others mentioned -- it may've been in early September 2000 -- it occurred in my own yard.  And maybe about 200 some ft. from one of those other trees.   That's proximate in space and proximate to me! 
      It was late afternoon.   I had gone out in the back yard and was walking near where some tall trees stand.   All of a sudden, I heard a CRACKK!! and there before my eyes was a bolt of lightning: vertical and not forked, continuous yet jagged.   I don't remember hearing thunder.   It seemed like it was maybe 35 to 40 ft. from me, but maybe was farther. The image of its bright stroke, burned itself into my memory.   It seemed to flash in the midst of the several tall trees in my yard but none of them became victim to it .   There's a dip in the back yard where a gully leads down to a deep ravine in the adjoining property.   It seemed to appear about over it.
      But a curious thing about it, was the bolt seemed cut off above the ground with about two tendrils of electricity trailing off, to my left as I faced it.   It seems to me I thought at the time, the cutoff appeared to be about ten feet off the ground. 
     Afterwards I searched for a burned spot but I didn't find any.    If there is any place in the yard where there would be dampness, it was the area I was in.   Had it struck the ground it seems to me it could have travelled toward me.   I was unhurt, but less than two days later, I started having a visual disturbance, where light would arc in my vision.   Arc...arc, arc...that sort of thing.   One eye doctor thought it wasn't connected to the lightning but another thought it could've been linked to it.
      Why it didn't hit the tall trees in our yard is a mystery to me.    And why it appeared cut off above the ground with those tendrils off to the side which seemed to dissipate in the air, is even more of a mystery.  In brilliance it seared through the air, and left unanswered questions.
      I'm left wondering about something else...whether something came between that bolt and the ground: whether  there was an intervention into nature.   Is it possible that my guardian angel stood and absorbed the bolt of lightning, to protect me from harm?   It's a possibility I must allow.

                                                                                                                                             ―John Riedell
It Struck Again

In June 2009 it struck again, this time a tree a short distance away from the hedge around much of our yard.  The evening before we had an outside electrical outlet grounded, with a long metal rod driven down beside the house.  The outlet faced the property with the tree. 
         Early the following morning, weather came through and with lightning and thunder.  One particular strike was quite loud and sounded very close, like it was in or above the room in the southeast corner of our house, where a computer was knocked out and a phone line filter was found to no longer function.  While we saw no damage to the our home, the lightning's electrical charge apparently travelled into the house.
        Whether from the same strike or from another, we  later found that lightning had struck a tall pine in the neighbor's yard, just north and next to ours.  It vertically stripped bark from the tree but the stripping didn't go all the way down to the bottom of the trunk.  Next to the tree, there was a metal rod stuck in the ground--a banner holder, something like a shepherd's crook but shaped differently.  It had an arrow top but a curl of metal nearer the tree.  The ripping off, down to the yellowish and whitish wood, stopped where the curl was located.  If it was a downward stroke, the electricity apparently jumped from the tree to the rod.  There were some marks on the curl. 
        Pieces of bark flew onto their lawn and over the hedge, onto ours.  A screened window was open on that side of their house, and it blasted pieces, shooting them through the screen into the room.  The owners were gone at the time and when they got home, one of them saw the bark on the floor and at first wondered how mulch got inside the house.
        A final note, a circuit in our house was tripped, which happened to be the same circuit turned off when the the electrician grounded the outlet the previous night.   JR                   

The tree with ripped bark and the nearby banner, but a not so welcome visit...
Our hedge and yard are visible through the gap between the tree and the banner.

The pierced screen...                                                   Pieces of bark blasted off...

                                                                            And Again

          It struck yet again at a neighbor's. This time it was down the lane, in the opposite direction from the neighbor next to our hedge.   It hit a tree with a divided trunk in their front yard, dividing it some more.  There's just one property between our place and where that strike occurred.  In the yard between, there was a party going on outside, and one of the party-goers felt his hair go up. The tree was oozing after the strike.


                               Detail of tree to left


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