Lightning Over ChicagoAn update to the storm I suffered through in a basement in Bridgeport, a southwest suburb of Chicago (home of the White Sox and Mayor Daley’s birthplace) on Monday, August 4th (article posted on

It was some storm! I was impressed with the lightning. I learned that, over four hours, about a half-year’s worth of lightning bolts bombarded Chicago. It was truly a historic thunderstorm, with 90,000 thunderbolts hitting northern Illinois (according to the Lightning Detection Network).

At the storm’s peak, it was detonating 800 bolts per minute. In six months’ worth of time, we usually don’t have that much lightning.

WGN meteorologist Tom Skilling (brother of the OTHER Skilling of Enron fame) said on Tuesday, August 5th, “There was no precedent for this. In every way imaginable, that storm last night was in its own league.”

The amazing thing: nobody was struck by lightning and no fatalities were reported due to the massive and truly awesome display of electrical tension, which began when positively charged ice crystals at the top and negatively charged water droplets at the bottom created a volatile mix. As the warm, moist air floated to the clouds, the powder keg exploded. Most lightning is negatively charged, but there are indications that ,during parts of the Monday storm, there was more than two and one-half times the usual percentage of positively charged lightning bolts which are more powerful.

Skilling said, “Not only were the total numbers just off the charts, but there was a disproportionate number of strokes that were positively charged. That was an especially dangerous lightning display.”

Nearly 10,000 lightning strikes were recorded in the 10 miles around Chicago’s loop, one of the highest totals ever seen for an area of that size. While there were at least 7 fires caused by the lightning hitting homes that burned down (Woodridge, Lisle, Aurora, Schaumburg, Frankfort, Barrington and Lemont) the wind did more damage. Some good quotes were obtained from employees of the Signature Room on the 96th floor of the Hancock Building. Apparently, the patrons thought it was all great good fun and filmed the bar glasses as they moved back and forth.

Manager James Kuehner said, “You could tell when the building was getting hit, because everything was bright light and thunder at the same time.”

Yikes! We almost walked over to Chinatown, but the tornado sirens did not enhance the experience, for me, so, instead, we sat on the floor of an interior hallway, away from the windows, cranking the weather radio I had just bought at the Natural Disasters exhibit at the Field Museum. (We learned that cranking it did not work that well, but putting batteries in it did.)