Multiple fires in California, one person killed after thunderstorms produce 66 000 lightning strikes, U.S.

thunder fire california us june 22 2022

Intense thunderstorms rolled through California, U.S. on June 22, 2022, producing more than 50 000 lightning strikes within 24 hours – the most in a single day since 2017. While the lightning strikes started multiple wildfires, one of them struck a woman and her two dogs killing them on the spot.

During the UTC day on June 22, a total of 54 329 lightning strikes were detected, according to meteorologist Chris Vagasky.

This is the most lightning strikes detected in a single day since September 8, 2017, and the 6th highest daily total since 2015.

“Incredibly, the 54 329 lightning events detected by NLDN between 00:00 UTC on June 22 and 00:00 UTC on June 23 are 7.5% of the total lightning detected in California in 2020 and 2021 combined,” Vagasky said.

Between 00:00 UTC on June 22 and 13:00 UTC on June 23, NLDN detected 66 897 total lightning events. 45 129 were in-cloud and 21 768 were cloud-to-ground, Vagasky noted, adding that this is a bigger event than the one from the August 2020 event.

“The 21 768 CG strokes hit 12 701 different points on the ground. 4 255 of these strike points were identified by NLDN as having medium to high probability of continuing current OR high potential for non-metal damage. These are potential fire start strikes,” Vagasky said.

The August 2020 California lightning wildfires (also referred to as the August lightning siege or August wildfire siege) were a series of 650 wildfires that ignited across Northern California in mid-August 2020, due to a siege of dry lightning from rare, massive summer thunderstorms, which were caused by an unusual combination of very hot, dry air at the surface, dry fuels, and advection of moisture from the remains of Tropical Storm Fausto northward into the Bay Area.1

Early morning on August 16 (2020), when the first thunderstorms hit, around 2 500 lightning strikes hit the Bay Area, with 200 strikes in 30 minutes at one point, which the National Weather Service office in Bay Area labeled as “insane”.

Within the next 72 – 96 hours, over 12 000 lightning strikes were recorded over Northern California. These lightning strikes sparked up to 585 wildfires, many of which grew to be very large at a rapid pace due to parched brush, especially in Northern California.

Storms that rolled through California on June 22 started multiple fires, but most of them were being suppressed while still very small.

The cause of the Thunder Fire east of Interstate 5 near the Grapevine north of Frazier Park is under investigation, but the suspected cause is lightning, said Captain Andrew Freeborn of the Kern County Fire Department.2

As of Thursday morning (LT), the Department reported it had burned approximately 930 ha (2 300 acres) and was being staffed by 250 personnel.

Small fires in the Angeles National Forest were being worked overnight by firefighters assisted by night-flying helicopters.

Unfortunately, one woman was killed after lightning struck her while walking with her two dogs.


1 August 2020 California lightning wildfires – Wikipedia – Accessed June 23, 2022

2 Multiple fires ignited in California following tens of thousands of lightning strike – Wildfire Today – June 23, 2022

Featured image credit: CalFire

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