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Lightning hits Seattle-bound jet, puts on a show as summertime front sweeps through

Lightning strikes off in the distance as seen from Snohomish, Wash. on June 24, 2018 (Photo: Brie Hawkins/JB Hawkins Photography)

SEATTLE -- That was quite the punctuation mark to end a weekend!

A rather strong cold front swept through Western Washington Sunday night, bringing a burst of heavy rains and vivid lightning, including one bolt that hit an inbound jetliner into Sea-Tac Airport.

Emily Todd was on Hawaiian Air Flight 30 from Maui into Seattle when the plane had to traverse that potent cold front just before landing around 11:15 p.m.

"Terrible turbulence during that bit," she said. Then came the flash.

"Bright flash off the right hand side of the plane with a crack sound," she said. "Then the ozone smell."

The smell is from the lightning energizing oxygen molecules. She said that once they had passed through the worst of it, the captain came on in the cabin to announce the plane had been hit by lightning. But no harm to the plane and the plane landed safely.

Hawaiian Airlines officials confirmed the lightning strike and said the plane was undergoing a lightning strike inspection. As a result its outbound return flight to Maui was delayed from its scheduled 10:15 a.m. departure until just after 3 p.m.

Pilots will tell you that while it might be startling for passengers when a plane gets hit by lightning, the planes themselves are well built to safely withstand lightning strikes. Any given commercial plane will get hit on average about once a year.

Back here on the ground, it was more of a light show than anything else, with no reported problems. Several cameras and photographers captured the light show.

This one was from Paul Britton from Downtown Seattle, looking west toward the Olympics:

And here is the SkunyBayWeather.com web cam compilation, courtesy of Greg Johnson:

The strongest cells were reported up by Granite Falls, where several strike of lightning were detected.

The lightning was even picked up in space! Our new GOES-16 weather satellite with its revolutionary Geostationary Lightning Mapper recorded the lightning strikes in real time overnight:

Typically fronts here are pretty wimpy. Wind shifts and temperature drops are minor and not typically all that noticeable. But not last night's front, that had a pretty stark wind shift and drop in temperature.

On the bottom graph, see the stark green/red line? That's the radar measuring the wind either coming toward (green) or away (red) from the radar. You can see a north wind (red) radically shifting to a south wind (green) along the frontal boundary.

At Sea-Tac, the temperature dropped 4 degrees during the front -- OK, not exactly the 90s-to-50s they sometimes get in the Midwest, but decent for here. The front was a quick mover -- all 0.13" of rain that fell in Seattle fell within an hour.

The front was the kickoff to a rather blah weather pattern for the upcoming week: Generally mostly cloudy with some peeks of sun but also a slight chance of a passing light shower each day with highs in the upper 60s and low 70s. But lightning is out of the forecast.

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