Sutro Tower Struck by Lightning: A Closer Look

On September 8, 2021, San Francisco’s iconic Sutro Tower was struck by lightning, creating a spectacular sight for residents and visitors alike. The incident made headlines across the country, with many wondering what caused the tower to be hit and what the implications might be. In this article, we take a closer look at the Sutro Tower, the events that led up to the lightning strike, and what it all means for the city of San Francisco.

What is the Sutro Tower?

The Sutro Tower is a 977-foot high television and radio transmission tower located in San Francisco. It was built in 1973 and is one of the most recognizable landmarks in the city. The tower is owned by Sutro Tower Inc. and serves as a primary transmitter for many of the Bay Area’s major television and radio stations.

Sutro Tower Struck by Lightning: A Closer LookSource: bing.com

The Lightning Strike

On the evening of September 8, 2021, a severe thunderstorm passed over the city of San Francisco. At around 10:30 pm, lightning struck the Sutro Tower, creating a bright flash of light and a loud boom that was heard across the city. The incident was captured on video by many residents and quickly went viral on social media.

Lightning Strike Sutro TowerSource: bing.com

The Aftermath

Thankfully, the lightning strike did not cause any major damage to the tower or the equipment housed inside it. According to Sutro Tower Inc., all stations were able to resume broadcasting within minutes of the strike. However, the incident did cause some concern among residents who were worried about the potential risks of lightning strikes to such a tall structure in a densely populated area.

Why Was the Tower Hit?

Lightning strikes are not uncommon, especially during thunderstorm season. However, the fact that the Sutro Tower was hit raises questions about why it was specifically targeted. One theory is that the tower’s height and metal construction made it a good conductor for the lightning to strike. Another possibility is that the tower’s location on top of a hill made it more vulnerable to strikes.

The Science Behind Lightning Strikes

Lightning is a powerful electrical discharge that occurs when there is a buildup of electrical charge in the atmosphere. This can happen during thunderstorms, when there is a separation of electric charge between the clouds and the ground. When the difference in charge becomes large enough, a lightning bolt is created to balance it out.

Science Behind Lightning StrikesSource: bing.com

What Are the Risks of Lightning Strikes?

Lightning strikes can be dangerous and even deadly. In addition to the risk of direct strikes, which can cause burns, cardiac arrest, and other injuries, lightning can also cause indirect damage, such as power outages and fires. Tall structures like the Sutro Tower are especially vulnerable to lightning strikes, as they can act as lightning rods that attract the electrical discharge.

What Can Be Done to Protect Structures from Lightning Strikes?

There are a number of measures that can be taken to protect buildings and other structures from lightning strikes. One of the most common is to install a lightning rod or lightning protection system, which can divert the electrical current away from the structure and into the ground. Other strategies include grounding systems, surge protectors, and lightning arrestors.

The Importance of Preparedness

While the lightning strike on the Sutro Tower was not a major event in terms of damage or injuries, it serves as a reminder of the importance of being prepared for natural disasters and other emergencies. By taking steps to protect ourselves and our communities, we can reduce the risks and minimize the impact of these events.


The lightning strike on the Sutro Tower was a dramatic event that captured the attention of people across the country. While it did not cause any major damage or injuries, it highlights the risks of natural disasters and the importance of being prepared. By taking steps to protect ourselves and our communities, we can ensure that we are ready for whatever challenges come our way.

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