Oh my Thor! Lightning flash covering 477 miles across 3 states set a world record

Satellite image of thunderstorm
This satellite image shows a thunderstorm complex that was found to contain the longest single lightning flash on record, covering nearly 500 miles.
(National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)

A bolt of lightning that stretched nearly 500 miles across three U.S. states is the new world record-holder for longest flash.

The single flash extended 477.2 miles across Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi in April 2020, the World Meteorological Organization said Monday. The organization said the distance covered was equivalent to that between New York City and Columbus, Ohio.

It beat the old record set in 2018 in Brazil of 440.6 miles.

Also in 2020, a single lightning flash over Uruguay and northern Argentina lasted 17.1 seconds, nipping the old time record of 16.7 seconds.


Normally, lightning doesn’t stretch farther than 10 miles and lasts less than a second, said Arizona State University’s Randall Cerveny, who is the chief of records confirmation for the meteorological organization.

“These two lightning flash records are absolutely extraordinary,” Cerveny said in an email.

Both were cloud-to-cloud, several thousand feet above the ground, so no one was in danger, he said.

These records, which are not linked to climate change, were spotted and confirmed thanks to new satellite tracking technology. Both regions are two of the few places in the world prone to the type of intense storms that can produce what are called “megaflashes, ” Cerveny said.