Researchers identified lightning bolts in Oklahoma and France as the longest on record and warn that their discovery could alter traditional thinking of when it’s safe to go outside after a storm passes.
A 2007 storm in Oklahoma produced a lightning bolt nearly 200 miles (321.85 kilometers) long, while a 2012 storm in southern France produced a single flash that lasted 7.74 seconds. Both events were added Wednesday to a list of weather extremes kept by the World Meteorological Organization.
“We should be more aware of lightning if we can have lightning that can travel 200 miles,” said Randy Cerveny, the WMO’s spokesman on weather and climate extremes. “If thunder roars, go indoors.”
Timothy Lang, a researcher at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, said the record Oklahoma lightning bolt streaked from Tulsa, near the Arkansas border, to near the Oklahoma Panhandle. The bolt started at an altitude of 6 miles (9.66 kilometers) and reached the ground in a number of places, he said. A researcher in Colorado saw the streak, and Lang said its length could change thinking about safety after a storm.