A Lightning Strike

Before today, the nearest I had come to getting hit by lightning was playing golf in Central Oregon about 20 years ago.  I was playing in a foursome when a thunderstorm came through the course and being typical males, we thought we could wait out the storm and sat in our carts on the fairway of the third hole.  My cart was on the left side of the fairway and the other cart was on the right side.  Suddenly, lightning hit about 50 feet away from both my cart and the other cart.  Needless to say, even though we were males, we hightailed it to the clubhouse and started playing golf when the storm passed on.

Well, today, I was even closer.  My wife and I headed out from Pasco on the morning flight to Portland and then we were taking the 10 am flight to San Francisco.  For those who have flown through the San Francisco airport, you know that it is one of the worst airports in the US for weather delays.  As usual, that hit us today and we were about an hour late leaving Portland.

About 50 miles from SFO we started to hit turbulence (at about 20,000 feet).  I tell my wife all the time that turbulence at 20,000 feet is much better than at 200 feet (it still does not make her feel better).  Suddenly, a flash of lightning hit the engine of the 737 with a large bang.  I was sitting in seat 11F and had the birdseye view of the hit and was likely less than 20 feet from the strike.

I think I read somewhere that lightning hits over 25,000 airplanes a year and today was my first hit and I can tell you it was both exciting and a little scary.

I am in San Francisco for the Granular Conference.  We had our social hour tonight and I was able to talk to several farmers from across the US.  I look forward to the sessions tomorrow and will update you on what I learn.

  • Principal
  • CliftonLarsonAllen
  • Yakima, Washington
  • 509-823-2920

Paul Neiffer is a certified public accountant and business advisor specializing in income taxation, accounting services, and succession planning for farmers and agribusiness processors. Paul is a principal with CliftonLarsonAllen in Yakima, Washington, as well as a regular speaker at national conferences and contributor at agweb.com. Raised on a farm in central Washington, he has been immersed in the ag industry his entire life, including the last 30 years professionally. In fact, Paul drives combine each summer for his cousins and that is what he considers a vacation. Leave a comment for Paul. If you would like to leave a comment for Paul, follow the link above, however, please make sure to include your email address so that he can reply to your comment (your email address will not automatically show up).


We were on a flight from London to CapeTown, South Africa about five years ago. Horrendous lighting storm right before we were landing…….but what are you going to do, probably sitting at 1% fuel. Always wondered if air standards varied from airport to airport as to what safe flying conditions are.

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