Normally, in a good storm you might expect to see 200 or fewer pulses of lightning, said National Weather Service Meteorologist Casey Oswant. A lightning pulse happens when lightning strikes in the clouds but doesn’t reach the ground, explained Oswant. It looks kind of like someone turning the lights on and off in the cloud.
“We have an atmospheric river making its way through and hitting California, and that is providing a lot of moisture into the atmosphere,” Oswant said.
The atmospheric river combined with an upper level disturbance that lifted the clouds high into the atmosphere so that the top of the clouds had ice particles and the bottom had liquid, made conditions ripe for lightning, explained Oswant.
While most of the lightning struck off the coast, hundreds of lightning pulses were recorded over the Santa Barbara-Los Angeles county region. A Delta jet was even struck by lightning during Tuesday night’s storm, forcing the pilot to turn back and land.