Chris Alderete caught an incredible moment on video Monday.
As torrential thunderstorms were rolling through the San Antonio area, flooding the morning commute to the point of high-water rescues, Alderete was at home, setting up his camera to document the event.
Just at the moment he figured out how to get the camera rolling properly (“Wait, which way are you supposed to record? Like this?”), lightning come crashing down on his neighbor’s house like a shot from a gun.
In fact, that’s exactly what it sounds like — not just one but multiple shots from a gun. This is evidence that multiple pulses of lightning struck in the same bolt.
The sound is the air being heated to 54,000 degrees Fahrenheit. The air around the lightning bolt expands faster than the speed of sound, which creates a shock wave of thunder. When you’re this close to the bolt, though, it sounds more like a bullet from a gun.
Alderete’s video shakes during the strike, but you can still see beads of plasma along the channel as the light fades. These channels of negatively charged air are where the lightning travels from cloud to ground. Scientists think they form as the negative charge builds up at the base of a thunderstorm cloud. When it gets close to the ground, it repels all of the other negatively charged particles — kind of like a magnet repels another of its own polarity — and attracts the positive charges.