Bay Area Could See Encore of Spectacular Lightning Show

A stroke of lightning recorded striking a location near San Francisco's Hunters Point on Monday night. (ABC7 San Francisco via Twitter)

The National Weather Service says there were more than 7,000 strokes of lightning recorded in and near the Bay Area Monday evening — and forecasters say another round is possible Tuesday.

The lightning caused several fires, led to delays at San Francisco International Airport and turned the Giants-Dodgers game at AT&T Park into a late night-early morning event.

The spectacular light-and-sound show — most of the lightning was of the cloud-to-cloud variety — was the result of a system pumping moist air into the region from the south combining with hot weather that encouraged the formation of thunderstorms, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Charles Bell.

“It was really impressive,” Bell said.

Lightning is common in California — think summer thunderstorms over the Sierra Nevada and other mountain ranges — but not in the state’s urban areas.

“It actually happens more frequently that people realize,” Bell said. “What made this event yesterday a little unusual was the fact that it was over metropolitan areas where people could really see it.”

Forecasters say the system that drove Monday’s thunderstorms is still in place and could lead to more storm conditions Tuesday afternoon and evening, especially in the southern parts of the region.

Monday’s storms were exciting for some and scary for others. In fact, there was one serious scare at SFO.

At around 9:30 p.m., airport staff responded to a report of a lightning strike near a United Airlines tug driver who was towing an empty aircraft, according to airport spokesman Doug Yakel.

Initial reports that indicated the worker was struck by lightning and injured were incorrect, Yakel said. He was evaluated and released by airport medics.

In Fremont, police and firefighters responded to a grass fire, more than one structure fire and reports of power outages, according to a tweet from the police department.

The lightning display came a day after a windstorm, that caught the National Weather Service by surprise, caused a series of outages, knocking out power for thousands of Pacific Gas and Electric customers in Santa Clara County.

Bay Area Could See Encore of Spectacular Lightning Show 12 September,2017Ted Goldberg


Ted Goldberg

Ted Goldberg is the morning editor for KQED News. His beat areas include San Francisco politics, the city’s fire department and the Bay Area’s refineries.

Prior to joining KQED in 2014, Ted worked at CBS News and WCBS AM in New York and Bay City News and KCBS Radio in San Francisco. He graduated from Oberlin College in Ohio in 1998.

You can follow him at @TedrickG and reach him on email at


Dan Brekke

Dan Brekke is a blogger, reporter and editor for KQED News, responsible for online breaking news coverage of topics ranging from California water issues to the Bay Area’s transportation challenges. In a newsroom career that began in Chicago in 1972, Dan has worked as a city and foreign/national editor for The San Francisco Examiner, editor at Wired News, deputy editor at Wired magazine, managing editor at TechTV as well as for several Web startups.

Since joining KQED in 2007, Dan has reported, edited and produced both radio and online features and breaking news pieces. He has shared in two Society of Professional Journalists Norcal Excellence in Journalism awards — for his 2012 reporting on a KQED Science series on water and power in California, and in 2014, for KQED’s comprehensive reporting on the south Napa earthquake.

In addition to his 44 years of on-the-job education, Dan is a lifelong student of history and is still pursuing an undergraduate degree.

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