Don Day Says Women In Viral Video Lucky They Weren’t Fried By Lightning

Two women laughing and smiling in a viral video with hair standing straight up from static electricity were likely in the path of an imminent lightning strike and are lucky they weren’t fried, Don Day says.

Andrew Rossi

March 06, 20244 min read

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If you’re standing in a vast Western landscape in sketchy weather and the static electricity in the air makes your hair stand on end, a lightning strike isn’t a risk.

It’s imminent.

Those were the circumstances behind a viral video filmed at the Horseshoe Bend Overlook in Arizona’s Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. A woman filmed her mother as her long hair stuck straight out from her head and static crackled from the end of her pointed finger on an overcast day.

The mother/daughter duo were all smiles as they claimed having found “a magnetic portal.”

Cowboy State Daily meteorologist Don Day said if the women knew the truth of their situation, they wouldn’t find it so enchanting.

“If people are in the vicinity of that static charge building up, there's a very high likelihood that they could be in the path of a lightning strike,” he said. “It's very serious business.”

Pathways, Not Portals

Day believes the most likely explanation for what was happening was that the women were standing in the pathway of an imminent lightning strike. That would explain why so much static electricity was circulating in that spot.

Despite appearances, lightning isn’t random, Day said.

It’s well-known that lightning tends to be attracted to metal and “the tallest points” on a landscape, but he said there are observable signs of where lightning is likely to strike the ground.

“Before a lightning strike, you get a pathway from the ground up to the cloud,” he said. “Charges are built up between the positive and the negative, and when they build up enough, you're going to have a lightning strike.”

Day said these pathways indicate the general vicinity where a lightning bolt could strike. That could be between a few feet and several yards, and there’s no safety within that area of effect.

“Lightning is crazy,” he said. “Lightning doesn't follow rules regarding where it hits or how the pathway goes, and it often isn't just one bolt. It will have fingers and side bolts.

“You may not be part of the main lightning strike, but you may catch the edge of it or one of the tendrils that goes off to the sides. It can be just as serious.”

Static electricity can be a fascinating and fun in certain conditions. However, Day sees the experience in the viral video as a herald of extreme danger, which makes it all the more fortunate the women left unscathed.

“There is, without a doubt, a very strong correlation to a phenomenon that they observed and an imminent lightning strike,” he said.

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Small As Possible

Lightning kills. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were 444 deaths by lightning in the United States between 2006 and 2021.

The average age of a person struck by lightning is 37 years, and men are four times more likely than women to be struck. Also, about a third of lightning injuries happen indoors.

Florida leads the nation for the most lightning deaths, likely because it is a vast, mostly flat area with frequent thunderstorms and several golf courses.

In Wyoming, there was at least one, and as many as five, lightning strike deaths over the last two decades. In 2022, 22-year-old Jack Murphy was on a backcountry trip with the National Outdoor Leadership School in Bridger-Teton National Forest when a lightning strike killed him.

When standing in a vast, open space like the one in the viral video, there’s not much anyone can do to avoid being fried by a bolt of lightning if a strike happens. Day said the best hope would be to seek shelter in a vehicle.

If that isn’t possible, the only option is to get as small as possible, and stay on your toes.

“Make yourself as small of a target as possible,” he said. “Crouch down to make yourself the smallest target possible, then lift your feet so you're only sitting on your toes. You're reducing the surface area that could be affected and keeping less contact with the ground if the current goes through there.”

But for how long? Unfortunately, imminent isn’t immediate. In those circumstances, it could be a few seconds or several minutes before the lightning strikes or its pathway changes.

Day has one more suggestion for anyone in a similarly electrifying situation.

“You are in a serious situation, without a doubt,” he said. “So, you probably shouldn’t try to take pictures and upload them to social media.”

Andrew Rossi can be reached at

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Andrew Rossi

Features Reporter