TRIVIAL PURSUITS: Is It True Lightening Never Strikes the Same Place Twice?

“Lightning never strikes the same place twice” is a common phrase to express that something that has happened won’t happen again.

Is it true that lightening never strikes the same place twice?


According to Britannica, in reality, lightning can and will strike the same place twice, whether it be during the same storm or even centuries later.


Author Nora Gonzalez explains: “When we see a lightning strike, we’re witnessing the discharge of electricity that has built up in a cloud, which is so strong that it breaks through the ionized air. This creates a stepped leader, or the lightning bolt, that travels downward until it reaches the ground. It is an incredibly quick process that takes only about 30 milliseconds. And right after lightning strikes, it reverberates in quick succession. So, essentially, multiple strikes can happen at the same place in this short period of time. Technically, the lightning is already striking more than once.”


Gonzalez notes that in the U.S. there is an average of 20 million cloud to ground lightning strikes per year, making the likelihood of a place being struck by lightning multiple times incredibly high over a long period of time. Also, she says, skyscrapers are more susceptible to strikes since they significantly reduce the distance the stepped leader needs to travel. For instance, famous skyscrapers like the Empire State Building in New York City and the Willis Tower in Chicago are nearly guaranteed to be struck by lightning each time a thunderstorm passes overhead.