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The Deadly Coal Region Electrical Storm of 1918

Most of us don't know anyone who has been personally struck by lightning, and that's because people just don't get struck much by lightning anymore. If you're like me, however, and enjoy reading old newspapers, you've probably noticed that just a century ago, people seemed to be getting killed by lightning left and right.

There are probably several reasons for this; for starters, weather forecasting was a crude and primitive science in those days. There also weren't as many tall structures a century ago as there are today, and the booming mining and timber industries left a whole lot of Pennsylvania out in the open, without many tall trees for lightning to strike. Or maybe people back then were just walking around with more metal objects strapped to them. Or maybe folks back then ate a diet that was very rich in iron. Who knows. I'm a historian, not a scientist.

One particularly strange event took place in the summer of 1918 which shows just how dangerous th…

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