Everything you should know about Catatumbo's lethal lightning
So you think you know everything about lightning? The fastest killer doesn't come from the ground, it comes from the sky.
There's an old expression some elderly used to say: "mourning and shrouding from heaven come down." The little saying referred not only to the randomness of life, but something much more lethal: It is calculated that up to 24,000 people die by lightning per year.
However, paradoxically, the first thing that should be known is about another saying that is false, the one that says lightning doesn't strike the same place twice. Nothing could be further from the truth, especially in the area of Catacumbo, a mysterious region between Colombia and Venezuela containing the largest lake in Latin America that holds the Guinness World Record for lightning strikes. There is not another place in the world with a higher incidence of lightning per square kilometer — up to 250 in a single hour. It can be seen at dawn, and especially in spring.
The phenomenon has taken the lives of children and military alike, bringing misfortune with amazing speed, and without anyone being able to remedy it. Sometimes, the strikes are accompanied by electrical storms, but the reality is that they can impact more than 15 kilometers away from their origin. It's why the town of Ologá by Lake Maracaibo is considered by NASA as the lightning capital of the Earth — a euphemistic title for such a lethal phenomenon.
There are also a number of unproven safety procedures that run rampant. Many people believe that one should take shelter under a tree, and that is the second-highest cause of death in thunderstorms. There are also those who believe that one should lie down on the ground, but this increases the chances of getting struck. In reality, one should proceed to seek shelter.
The curious phenomenon, considered by some scientists to be a lighthouse of nature, is actually an old acquaintance of the community. There are reports from 1826 and numerous literary examples where the lightning strikes are enshrined. It is not surprising then, that a lightning bolt appears on the flag of Zulia, where the phenomenon is also called the Lighthouse of Maracaibo.
Teams of scientists from many countries around the world have traveled to the area over two centuries to analyze the phenomenon and try to provide an explanation. Lately, they believe that it may be due to the combination of the abundant evaporation of the lake and the high mountains of the Merida mountain range that immobilize the movement of the clouds.
Be that as it may, the explanation is still not unanimous.