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10 Myths About Lightning

        Science | Storms

10
Lightning Never Strikes the Same Place Twice
The Empire State Building has been struck several times in one day. Gregory Kramer/Getty Images
The Empire State Building has been struck several times in one day. Gregory Kramer/Getty Images

This one sounds great, especially when used to describe events that aren't likely to happen again, like the Chicago Cubs making it back to the World Series. The problem is that it's just not true. Lightning strikes many places repeatedly.

The Empire State Building, for example, was once used as a lightning laboratory because of its knack for collecting a natural, atmospheric bolt of electricity. That long metal rod pointing up from the top isn't just for Godzilla to clean his ears with -- the 1,454-foot (444-meter) skyscraper's designed to take lightning hits. The building is struck by lightning anywhere from 25 to 100 times a year, depending on whom you talk to, and took three separate strikes in one night in the spring of 2011. That's because lightning tends to be attracted to the tallest point in a particular area, leaving the Empire State Building to duke it out with the nearby Chrysler Building and 432 Park when storm clouds roll in over midtown Manhattan [sources: NOAA, NYC.gov, Heussner].

Worse, tall buildings actually help generate lighting because, during a thunderstorm, objects on the ground have an electric charge that is opposite to the one charge in the cloud. While most lightning moves from the cloud down to the ground, occasionally, it can move up from tall buildings and antenna when electric charges in the clouds change rapidly.