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No. 41: Sep-Oct 1985

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Ball lightning strikes twice!

Summer 1977. Haymarket, Virginia. A severe storm was threatening. Mrs. Patricia Townsend was standing in front of her kitchen counter talking on the telephone.

"Several things happened at the same time and the whole incident probably lasted no more than a few seconds at the most. While I was on the phone, I heard a tremendous crack, something like the report of a high-powered rifle or the sound of a bat hitting a baseball. At the same time the outside of my house, meaning the outdoors, lit up brilliantly. A split second later or perhaps at the same time, I heard a loud swooshing or hissing noise and the phone seemed to come alive in my hand. Then my whole kitchen lit up like a floodlight. Lightning or electricity or whatever it was seemed to flow rapidly from the open kitchen door across the expanse of the far end of my kitchen at ceiling level as shown by the jagged line in my drawing. I'm not sure where the red ball came from but I have depicted it as coming from the jagged lightning on my ceiling. Anyhow, almost at the same time as the lightning zoomed across my kitchen and the phone started vibrating in my hand, a large red ball (with yellow and white somewhere) appeared in front of me and hit me on the chest with the force of a large man hitting me with his fist. I fell to the floor and I believe the phone was still in my hand. I'm still not sure if I was knocked unconscious or not. I couldn't swear I was and couldn't swear I wasn't. The ball hit me with the accompanying sounds of smacking and crackling, kind of like a string of firecrackers being set off."

Ball lightning path

The telephone was dead and Mrs. Townsend suffered chest pains for several days. The ball seemed to be made of a soft burlap-type surface with a fuzzy texture.

June 21, 1978. Same place, same kitchen. Same person. Thunderstorm out-side. Again a fireball entered the kitchen. It was about a foot across with jagged yellow and white edges. It hit Mrs. Townsend in the face, with the sensation being like a slap with an open hand. The ball possessed a surface like that of a textured fabric as before. The witness collapsed and when recovering found herself with slurred speech and neck pains. She soon regained full faculties and health.

(Bailey, B.H.; "Ball Lightning Strikes Twice," Weather, 39:76, 1984.)

Reference. Many more examples of ball lightning may be found in Chapter GLB in our catalog: Lightning, Auroras. For ordering information, visit: here.

Ball lightning path

From Science Frontiers #41, SEP-OCT 1985. 1985-2000 William R. Corliss