On June 26, 1807, lightning hit a gunpowder factory in Luxembourg, killing more than 300 people!
Every year in the U.S. alone, lightning kills approximately 73 people, but victims are almost always killed one at a time. The Luxembourg disaster may have been the most deadly lightning strike in history.
In the U.S. we will see about 70,000 thunderstorms somewhere – and I swear most of them happen in Wichita, Kansas – LOL! These storms produce about 20 million lightning strikes annually. A bolt of lightning can reach 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit in instant heat! There are 100 million volts in an average lightning bolt, which can be as much as five miles long.
How did the Luxembourg tragedy happen? In 1807, it was occupied by Napoleon’s army. The country was used to stockpile weapons and ammunition. A fortress built in 1732 was used as an armory. When lightning struck the fortress, the ammunition inside ignited on contact, causing a massive explosion!
Two blocks were completely destroyed by the blast, which caused several other raging fires as well. What an odd combination of man’s resources and God’s nature!
Living in Kansas, I’ve always had a healthy respect for lightning and stay indoors, away from windows during thunderstorms. My mom used to tell me the story of how Granny LaVella was standing at a window in their little farmhouse in Oklahoma during a thunderstorm – and she got struck by lightning – and miraculously survived!
I don’t think we have anything here in Kansas that lightning could strike and cause such a catastrophe, but by the same token, I’m not going to be out on a golf course holding a golf club either. A scene from the movie Caddyshack just flashed through my mind – LOL!
Lightning will travel the easiest route from the cloud to the ground – and will strike the tallest object. If you see lightning, go to a low area and crouch down until it subsides – go indoors if possible. If you are with a group of people – spread out to make yourself a smaller target.
There are some common misconceptions about lightning:
- Yes, it will strike the same place twice (like it has a brain and knows where it’s struck before – really???)
- No, rubber soled shoes and rubber tires provide no protection from lightning. However the steel frame of a hard topped vehicle will protect you, if you are not touching metal. If your car is struck by lightning, you may suffer injuries and your car may be damaged, but you are enormously safer than if you are outside.
- Yes, you can tell how close lightning is. It takes Sound 5 seconds to travel 1 mile. So, count 5 seconds for one mile, 10 seconds for 2 miles, etc.
This morning, around 4am, we had a dandy thunderstorm here in Wichita, but on this day in 1807 in a small European country – it was explosive!