Weather Blog

Watch: Lightning strikes two jets on approach to Sea-Tac Airport

Watch: Lightning strikes two jets on approach to Sea-Tac Airport

SEATTLE -- Some of the people on their way into Seattle Wednesday evening got quite the hello from Mother Nature as lightning struck two different jets as they approached Sea-Tac Airport.

University of Washington student Owen Craft was out in the University District trying to film lightning strikes as a thunderstorm moved through and caught the two massive bolts as they passed through the planes' fuselage.

"I was stunned for a second because I couldn't believe what I just saw," Craft said. "After the second (plane) got hit, I knew I was on to something spectacular!"

One of those planes was an Alaska Air Flight 515 inbound from Orange County while another was Alaska Air Flight 731 that was coming into Seattle from Houston. Kim Dodge was sitting in Row 9 on the right side of that plane when the bolt hit.

"We were flying in and out of clouds, sunshine then darkness, sunshine then darkness," she said. "I was looking out the window when I saw this bright flash and this streak of lightning hit the top-middle of the right wing near the engine."

She said it looked like the bolt exited right below the wing.

"I think it hit the wing because there was an immediate loud crack and the cabin was bright for that brief second," she said. "There was this loud gasp in the cabin after it happened. The people behind me were starting to worry if it was going to affect the landing. It didn’t."

"We landed safely," Dodge said. "It was startling."

Anthony Porter was on the Orange County flight that was also hit by lightning:

"Instantly a sound, a plane move and a flash of light; probably the worst turbulence you'll ever feel for 2 solid seconds," said Anthony Porter. "It got people pretty shook up."

But Porter said aside from the moments surrounding the strike, the flight was totally normal.

"It was alarming, but it was so quick, people knew something happened, but no one knew what happened," he said. "It was a direct hit and 5 seconds before and 5 seconds after -- smooth sailing, there was no turbulence." He said the plane landed without further incident.

While being struck by lightning would sound frightening to those on board, airplane lightning strikes are not that uncommon and the jets are built to withstand the jolt.

"Airplanes themselves are prepared for this kind of stuff and have the mechanics to manage lightning strikes," Sea-Tac Airport public relations manager Perry Cooper told ABC News. "We did not receive any reports of precautionary landing alerts from any pilots Wednesday night either."

As lightning hits the plane, the electricity flows on the outer surface of the plane and then continues on its way through the air, according to the Washington Post. They add the FAA estimates each plane gets hit by lightning about once a year in the United States.

But it was a rather amazing coincidence that two planes would be hit during that particular thunderstorm. Officials with the National Weather Service in Seattle said radar detected only 5 lightning strikes with the storm.

Northern Lights turn region's skies green for St. Patrick's Day

Northern Lights turn region's skies green for St. Patrick's Day
Photo of the Northern Lights as seen from Picnic Point in Edmonds early on the morning of March 17, 2015. (Photo courtesy: Julia Kelley)

Surprise!

A bit of a sneaky and severe solar storm hit the planet last night, bringing a show of the Northern Lights in the wee hours of St. Patrick's Day morning.

The photo above was taken by Julia Kelley who went down to Picnic Point Beach last night to catch some fresh air and relax.

Northern Lights peek out over Northwest

Northern Lights peek out over Northwest
Photo of Northern Lights on 15 second film exposure as seen from Mukilteo on Feb. 23, 2015. (Photo: Liem Bahneman)

It was a bit of a surprise considering there wasn't much solar flare activity but the Northern Lights made a faint appearance over Western Washington Monday night.

2 routine events combine for spectacular scene over Canadian skies

2 routine events combine for spectacular scene over Canadian skies
Photo of a "FallStreak" cloud spotted over Surrey, B.C. at sunrise on Feb. 22, 2015. (Photo courtesy: Zora Fernandez)

Those who were up early enough Sunday morning in Surrey, B.C. and happened to look up were treated to a spectacular scene in the heavens that looks like something straight out of the imagination of a futuristic Hollywood alien blockbuster film.

In actuality, it was the combination of two rather routine events that just happened to have impeccable timing:

A sunrise (one for the ages on its own) …and a plane descending through a solid, stable cloud layer.

Rare, undulating clouds enchant visitors in Grand Teton

Rare, undulating clouds enchant visitors in Grand Teton
This photo taken Thursday, Feb. 12, 2015, and provided by the Grand Teton National Park, shows an unusual cloud formation across the summit of the Grand Teton in this view from the park's headquarters campus at Moose, Wyo. (AP Photo/Grand Teton National Park, Jackie Skaggs)
CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - A bizarre sheet of wispy clouds undulating over the Teton Range enchanted tourists and even veteran employees of Grand Teton National Park.

Drivers stopped along the park's main highway Thursday morning to gaze in awe and shoot photos of the rare phenomenon hovering over Grand Teton mountain. At 13,775 feet above sea level, the Grand Teton is the highest point in the Teton Range.

Oregon dust storm now blamed for 'milky rain' in Eastern Washington

Oregon dust storm now blamed for 'milky rain' in Eastern Washington
Photo of a dirty, milky substance that has fallen on cars outside the National Weather Service office in Spokane, Wash. on Feb. 6, 2015. (Photo courtesy: National Weather Service)


The mystery surrounding a white, milky rain that fell across Eastern Washington and parts of Oregon and Idaho Friday has a new theory, although I'd call it more of a tweak of the previous theory.

The event coated vehicles and windows in more than 15 cities, including Spokane, the Tri-Cities, and Hermiston, Oregon. Initial thoughts of the source originating as volcanic ash from a distant eruption or debris blown from summer wildfire-scarred terrain were quickly disproven.

This snowman will help put Alaska's massive storm in perspective

This snowman will help put Alaska's massive storm in perspective
This Sunday, March 2, 2014 photo shows a giant snowman created by Greg Novak in Gilman, Minn. (AP Photo/ St. Cloud, Jason Wachter)

With all the hype over the big storm off Alaska's (far) west coast and the talk of the impending arctic doom and gloom heading toward the Midwest this week being blamed on this storm, you might think the photo above is current -- or a forecast of how much snow is about to fall out there.

Well, no. Not quite.

El Nino flaking out on us again? Chances of it forming drop to 58%

El Nino flaking out on us again? Chances of it forming drop to 58%
Yakima River Upper Kittitas County on Nov. 5, 2014 (Photo: Stephanie Hansen)

El Nino may be flaking out on its winter date with us again, but for skiers and snowboarders it'd be akin to having better plans lined up anyway.

The latest word from NOAA is that the odds of El Nino forming this winter are down to 58 percent -- a far cry from the 80 percent chances we had in the early summer.

Forecasts are still indeed for El Nino conditions to develop this winter (better hurry up!) but now we're leaning toward a borderline event that may just barely qualify.

Weather whiplash: Denver drops 40 degrees in 3 hours

Weather whiplash: Denver drops 40 degrees in 3 hours
Snow falls in Denver on Nov. 10, 2014 just a few hours after it was 64°. (Photo courtesy: Daryl Orr, KDVR-TV, Denver)

Days like today are not unheard of in Denver and the Midwest when you've got a massive cold front barreling through... but they're still fun to marvel at.

Check out how residents there kicked off their work week: