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Lightning in Los Angeles
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Nothing brings Angelenos together like loud booms and things that fall from the sky

For a city famous for its persistent sunshine, Angelenos absolutely love to talk about the weather.

Michael Juliano
Written by
Michael Juliano

It rained in Los Angeles today. But you didn’t need to check a weather report or get your shoes soaked to know that.

For a city famous for its persistent sunshine, Angelenos absolutely love to talk about the weather: in face-to-face conversation, over text, on social media, you name it. As far as icebreakers, it’s second maybe only to traffic talk. And we get it: With such a predictable climate—and what feels like near-constant drought conditions—a day of rain or a week of fog becomes a big event.

But there’s something else about natural phenomena that we’ve particularly noticed during these past two very weird years: It’s one of the only things that can seemingly unite such a sprawling and sometimes disconnected-feeling city. Nothing gets Angelenos on opposite ends of the county talking quite like things that fall from the sky and things that go boom—and on rare occasions, a mix of the two.

The way Angelenos react to rain sometimes, you’d think an earthquake had just hit (which itself has its own subculture of chatter—see: the thread that always hits the L.A. subreddit before the aftershocks). News footage becomes saturated with footage of the swelling L.A. River. Online comments become a steady stream of “yep, it’s raining over here, too.” #LARain trends. Rational driving skills are abandoned. If it’s cold enough, Valley dwellers are convinced that they saw a few flurries. To outsiders used to carrying an umbrella on the regular, this must all look insane. But to Angelenos, rain discourse is very serious business.

As far as things that go boom, they’re fireworks. Well, sure, sometimes it’s a blown transformer. But those Twitter complaints of explosions in the middle of the city? Christmas fireworks at the Grove. The Reddit thread about a couple of loud booms late at night? Just some dude lighting fireworks in the street. That Nextdoor post about gunshots? Nah, it was probably just fireworks. Even though it’s just a random Tuesday night in August? Especially because it’s just a random Tuesday night in August.

But every once in a while, it’s not just fireworks, and a thing that goes boom meets a thing that falls from the sky to create something truly memorable. That was the case with the once-in-a-generation lightning storm on October 4, 2021 (our pick for this year’s most weird and wonderful thing in the 2021 Best of the City awards). There were about 4,000 strikes observed across SoCal that day, a number only dwarfed by the volume of social media responses it generated. Aside from the odd refinery flare or SpaceX rocket launch, that glow in the night sky is usually just light pollution. Steady streaks of lightning with rumbling thunder and a bit of rain? Practically unheard of. We’re not sure that we’ve ever seen L.A. as collectively giddy, and so for that, we can only thank Mother Nature for finding something other than a shared hatred of LAX to bring us all together.

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