During a recent thunderstorm in an urban area, I saw lightning strike within about half a mile, estimated as such because I heard the thunder about 2 seconds after I saw the strike. What surprised me was that I heard an electrical-sounding bzzzzt that was simultaneous with the strike, and lasted for the fraction of a second that the bolt was visible. This sound could not have come from the lightning bolt itself, as I heard it well before the thunder.

There are power lines not far outside my window. Did the lightning strike send a surge through the grid from half a mile away that was heard at my house? This is about the only explanation I can think of for the timing of the sound. If it did, what actually causes that bzzzt noise?

  • $\begingroup$ Were you near powered "PC speakers" with an unshielded/undershielded cable? Or AM radio, overhead intercom system etc? $\endgroup$
    – Yorik
    Jul 13 '17 at 14:26
  • $\begingroup$ Have you not noticed lights flickering in concurrence with lightning, and then comes the thunder? The pulse could become audible depending on the electrical systems in the house that might resonate to the frequencies. $\endgroup$
    – anna v
    Jul 13 '17 at 14:49
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Idk why shall we down-vote this. $\endgroup$
    – High GPA
    Jul 13 '17 at 15:25

What you heard was probably due to nearby static discharges that were triggered by the lightning strike. The E&M field during a thunderstorm is very complex and sudden changes travel at $c$ so objects can produce static discharges before the sound of thunder arrives. I was standing on a wooden deck with a metal handrail once when a nearby lightning strike occurred and heard a buzz coming from the handrail prior to the thunder.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Sound travels at ~0.2 miles per second, so it's 5 second for every 1 mile. Lots of people seem to think it's 1 second per mile, not sure why that idea is so commonplace. $\endgroup$ Jul 13 '17 at 14:23
  • $\begingroup$ I'll remove my last srntence. $\endgroup$ Jul 13 '17 at 14:26

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.