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Do tornadoes cause lightning flashes inside a home?

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Dear Tom,

On June 24,1918, my mother witnessed a devasting tornado in Green City, Missouri and had vivid memories of lightning flashes inside the house as she ran to the cellar. What did she see?

Maribeth Sauer

Dear Maribeth,

While we can’t be certain, it’s possible your mother witnessed ball lightning. Sightings are well documented and it is usually described as an orange or reddish sphere of light up to about three feet in diameter, lasting just a few seconds and often accompanied by a loud noise. Though it usually occurs in the vicinity of a recent lightning strike, little information is actually known about the cause of ball lightning. Recent laboratory recreations have given credence to the theory that is electrical in composition and origin, but there is no universally accepted theory for its cause.

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