Does lightning really never strike the same place twice?

Dear Tom,

I have heard that lightning never strikes the same place twice, but I don’t believe it. Can you comment?

R. Tetakawa
Chicago

Dear R.,
Proverbs usually express well-known truths or facts, but the proverb that you have mentioned is demonstrably incorrect. It first appeared in the United States a little over one hundred years ago. Much of what we know about lightning has been learned by placing measuring equipment at locations that lightning strikes repeatedly and frequently. Mountain peaks, exposed ridges, broadcast towers and the tops of skyscrapers are among spots often targeted by lightning. For example, here in Chicago, the Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower) takes more than 50 strikes annually. On flat terrain and away from tall structures, lightning strikes occur randomly, and the same spot will rarely be struck more than once.

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