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US Lightning Bolt Leaps Into Record Books at 768 Kilometers Long

A satellite image provided by NOAA shows a thunderstorm and megaflash lightning on April 29, 2020, in this screengrab taken from video, Feb. 1, 2022.

A single lightning bolt that leapt across three U.S. states has been identified as the longest ever, the U.N. weather agency said Tuesday. Dubbed a megaflash, the rare low-rate horizontal discharge covered 768 kilometers (477 miles) between clouds in Texas and Mississippi in April 2020.

It was detected by scientists using satellite technology and its distance - beating the previous record by 60 kilometer - confirmed by a World Meteorological Organization committee.

"That trip by air[plane] would take a couple of hours and in this case the distance was covered in a matter of seconds," WMO spokesperson Clare Nullis said.

Another megaflash that occurred above Uruguay and Argentina in June 2020 also set a record, as the longest-lasting at 17.1 seconds, the WMO said.

While these two newly cataloged megaflashes never touched the ground, they serve as a reminder of the dangers of a weather phenomenon that kill hundreds of people a year.

"We reiterate our message: when thunder roars, when you see lightning — go indoors. Don’t seek shelter in a beach hut, don't stand under a tree," Nullis said.