Storm Chaser Gets Coveted Shot of Lightning Hitting the Arch -- And It Strikes Twice!

Categories: Video, Weather

Photo courtesy of the Gateway Arch
The Gateway Arch is struck by lightning several times a year, but there's never been any problems.
After years of hunting for the perfect shot, a St. Louis photographer took an electrifying video of the Gateway Arch getting struck by lightning last Wednesday.

Dan Robinson, the guy who caught the Arch's most recent encounter with lightning on film, was on a business trip in West Virginia as he monitored storms in St. Louis. He noticed the storms were "very lightning active," so when he saw one on its way to St. Louis, he packed it in early and headed for home.

Using a high-definition video camera, Robinson set up shop on Memorial Drive and waited, literally, for lightning to strike, though he didn't expect it would be twice.

Five lightning rods on top of the arch absorb the electricity from lightning strikes to protect it.

"The Arch is actually designed in a way that lightning doesn't do any damage," says Karen Bollinger, director of sales and marketing for the Gateway Arch. "It happens several times a year, even when people are up inside. Nothing shuts down. It just sounds like a firework going off. And then it's back to business as usual."

See Also:Gateway Arch 2015: New Details in Massive Redesign, Museum, Riverfront Plans (PHOTOS)

Robinson, a storm chaser and Web designer, has hounded the elusive lightning-hitting-the-Arch shot for four years.

"I've always loved storms. Lightning in particular has always fascinated me," he says. "This was just your common, garden-variety cloud-to-ground lightning strike, there was just more of it than usual."

It's possible to have ground-to-cloud lightning strikes also, Robinson says. But that only happens around skyscrapers and towers.

"High towers produce ground-to-cloud strikes because they're so tall, and they have a focused point electric field," Robinson says. "They wouldn't happen if the tower wasn't there, so it's a man-made phenomenon."

When it's hit, the Arch doesn't use the electricity for power or anything like that, Bollinger says. Lightning rods and the stainless-steel exterior provide pathways to the 60-foot-deep bedrock at the base of the Arch, and the lightning is carried away. No harm, no foul.

Follow Mitch Ryals on Twitter at @mitchryals. E-mail the author at

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Omar Young
Omar Young

Nature's beauty combined with man's triumph!

Dahmen Piotraschke
Dahmen Piotraschke

U all just think the Cardinals are enough . Suburbs suck. Less zoning restrictions leads to headquarters property and its property aesthetic race. Of course more property taxes. Try a bit of history re StLouis in 60s and its intent to stay above 1 million in city limits but no..we thought our National Park would suffice. No sarcasm herrrrr.\U0001f60b

Dahmen Piotraschke
Dahmen Piotraschke

It's a visual's piece of the puzzle. We have the giant corporations here but wanna show their wealth. Downtown with new modern highrise real estate. Arch is iconic but short. Big biz want new glass towers , small cities' within not worrying about street crime. IE NYC.

Kevin McElligott
Kevin McElligott

the height limit has no effect on growth since st louis stopped growing right before the arch was built.

Dahmen Piotraschke
Dahmen Piotraschke

Yes that's insane but hilarious. The Arch is cool but the ban on other buildings heights has made downtown investment and its skyline suck and may have rose to Chicago s archetypes. Arch can step back. New project is promising BC dtstl sux as a pedestrian.

Jeff Siddons
Jeff Siddons

More proof that it is a government weather control device... There is dissent in the old guard! Attacked by the new government's own weather device! Revolution engage!

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