Unusual lightning show illuminates Southern California sky

By John Roach, AccuWeather staff writer
March 06, 2019, 4:09:29 PM EST

A spectacular display of lightning lit up the Southern California night sky Tuesday. At one point, the National Weather Service (NWS) recorded 1,489 pulses of lightning in just five minutes off the California coast, according to The Los Angeles Times.

More than 20,000 pulses of lightning were detected by Earth Networks from 6 p.m. to midnight, according to WTOP meteorologist Steve Prinzivalli.

"That's a pretty intense system," said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Paul Walker. "That indicates the strength of the storm that's coming on shore from the Pacific Ocean."

Lightning also knocked out power briefly at three terminals at Los Angeles International Airport and also struck a plane. No one on the plane was injured and the Delta flight to Seattle returned to the airport, where passengers later boarded a different plane.

"During the winter months when you get the big storms that come in to California, they can often have lightning with them," Walker said.

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Lightning in atmospheric river approaching California

Lightning is seen flickering in the atmospheric river approaching California. (Image/NOAA's GOES-17 satellite/CIRA/RAMMB)


The rain inundating parts of California on Tuesday evening and Wednesday was part of a weather system fueled by another atmospheric river. As the storm approached on Tuesday, AccuWeather captured satellite imagery that showed a swath of clouds that featured heavy lightning activity. The view from outer space was nothing short of breathtaking and so was the view from the ground in Southern California as lightning seemingly crashed everywhere.

Here are some of the amazing photos from the night's light show that were posted on Twitter by Mike Eliason, the public information officer for the Santa Barbara County Fire Department.

(Mike Eliason / Santa Barbara Fire Department)

A spectacular display of lightning illuminated the night sky over California Tuesday night, March 5, 2019.

(Mike Eliason / Santa Barbara Fire Department)

A spectacular display of lightning illuminated the night sky over California Tuesday night, March 5, 2019.

(Mike Eliason / Santa Barbara Fire Department)

A spectacular display of lightning illuminated the night sky over California Tuesday night, March 5, 2019.

(Mike Eliason / Santa Barbara Fire Department)

A spectacular display of lightning illuminated the night sky over California Tuesday night, March 5, 2019.

(Mike Eliason / Santa Barbara Fire Department)

A spectacular display of lightning illuminated the night sky over California Tuesday night, March 5, 2019.

(Mike Eliason / Santa Barbara Fire Department)

A spectacular display of lightning illuminated the night sky over California Tuesday night, March 5, 2019.

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