Lightning Doesn’t Strike the Same Place Twice myth

Lightning has been a source of both wonder and fear for centuries. Among the numerous myths and misconceptions associated with this powerful natural event is the claim that “lightning never strikes the same place twice.” How accurate is this statement? Is it a fact or simply an old wives’ tale? This article investigates the truth behind this claim, explores the science of lightning, and discusses how lightning interacts with our world.

Fact Check: The Truth Revealed

Lightning can and does strike the same place multiple times. This is especially true for tall structures like buildings and towers, which can be hit by lightning dozens of times yearly. Despite the evidence, the notion that lightning avoids previously struck locations is a myth.

Understanding Lightning

Lightning is an electrostatic discharge during thunderstorms when electrical imbalances develop between the ground and storm clouds. When the imbalance becomes too great, a lightning bolt neutralizes the charge. Lightning can occur within a cloud, between clouds, or between a cloud and the ground. The latter, known as cloud-to-ground lightning, is the most familiar and potentially dangerous to humans and structures.

Why Lightning Strikes the Same Place Multiple Times

  1. Tall structures: Lightning typically seeks the path of least resistance to the ground. Tall structures like buildings, towers, and trees offer the shortest distance between the earth and the charged storm clouds, making them prime targets for lightning strikes. For example, the Empire State Building in New York City is struck by lightning around 25 times per year[1].
  2. Conductive materials: Lightning is more likely to strike structures of conductive materials like metal. A lightning bolt approaching the ground induces positive charges in nearby objects. Conductive materials facilitate the movement of these charges, attracting lightning and increasing the chances of a strike. This is why lightning rods are installed on buildings to channel lightning energy into the ground safely.
  3. Topography: Certain geographical features, such as hills, ridges, and bodies of water, can influence the distribution of electrical charges in the atmosphere and on the ground. This can create localized areas with a higher likelihood of lightning strikes, making it more probable for lightning to strike the same place multiple times.

In-Depth Discussion: The Science of Lightning Strikes

Lightning is a complex and highly variable phenomenon. The frequency and distribution of lightning strikes are influenced by various factors, including atmospheric conditions, altitude, latitude, and particulates in the air[2].

Some locations are more prone to lightning strikes than others. The Democratic Republic of the Congo, for example, has the highest frequency of lightning strikes in the world, with an average of 205 strikes per square kilometer per year[3]. Florida is the most lightning-prone in the United States, with an average of 1.2 million cloud-to-ground strikes annually[4].

Understanding the behavior of lightning is crucial for ensuring public safety and minimizing the risk of property damage. Research continues to shed light on the many factors influencing lightning activity, helping to inform better protection strategies and mitigation techniques.


The belief that “lightning never strikes the same place twice” is a myth. Contrary to this famous saying, lightning can and does strike the exact location multiple times, particularly tall structures, areas with conductive materials, and certain geographical features. Lightning is a complex natural phenomenon influenced by various factors, including atmospheric conditions, altitude, latitude, and particulates in the air.


[1] Uman, M. A., & Rakov, V. A. (2003). Lightning: Physics and Effects. Cambridge University Press.

[2] Rakov, V. A., & Uman, M. A. (2003). Lightning: Physics and Effects. Cambridge University Press.

[3] Christian, H. J., Blakeslee, R. J., Boccippio, D. J., Boeck, W. L., Buechler, D. E., Driscoll, K. T.,& Goodman, S. J. (2003). The Optical Transient Detector observed global frequency and distribution of lightning from space—Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres, 108(D1).

[4] Orville, R. E., & Huffines, G. R. (2001). Cloud-to-ground lightning in the United States: NLDN results in the first decade, 1989-98. Monthly Weather Review, 129(5), 1179-1193.

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Author: Walt Whitney

Walt Whitney is the co-founder of Dog Media Solutions. He is our head editor and is, along with his other founder Thomas DeMichele behind many popular websites, including,,...

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