Every five minutes, a camera installed at the Wichita branch of the National Weather Service takes a random photo of the sky.
On Thursday, it caught lightning in a bottle – or, more precisely, a lightning bolt from the sky.
The bolt struck just before 6 p.m. on the Tex Consolver Golf Course at 1931 S. Tyler, just across the street from the weather service office.
“We thought maybe we took a direct hit on the (radar) tower,” meteorologist Mick McGuire said. “But there was too much time between the lightning strike and the thunder.”
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Two full seconds passed after the lightning hit before any thunder was heard, he said. That meant the bolt didn’t strike right where they were.
The bolt knocked out electricity at the weather service briefly, McGuire said, but the power returned before the backup generator kicked on to keep computers and other equipment operating.
The lightning hit during a stormy day that brought 0.75 of an inch of rain to the weather service offices as of 7 p.m. on Thursday and perhaps as much as 3 inches to parts of Maize and northwest Sedgwick County.
Forecasters spotted the lightning strike when they reviewed the camera’s images.
“It was pretty cool,” McGuire said. “We got lucky.”