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Did lightning start a 45,000-barrel Jim Beam warehouse fire?

July 03, 2019; 3:31 PM

A large fire was started at a distillery around 11:30 p.m. Tuesday near Frankfort, Kentucky. According to WKYT, this is the warehouse on McCracken Pike; the satellite photos from Google Maps at the location of the Woodford Reserve Distillery.

Jim Bean fire Reuters image 7/2019

A Jim Beam warehouse, filled with about 45,000 bourbon barrels, was burning Wednesday afternoon after a fire started around 11:30 pm Tuesday at the facility in Woodford County. (REUTERS/ Matt Stone/ Courier Journal)

Woodford County Emergency Management Director Drew Chandler told WKYT that a lightning strike could have been the cause, and the owner, Beam Suntory, said in a statement, "Initial reports suggest the fire resulted from a lightning strike."

Every day, there are hundreds of thousands of lightning strikes which do no harm... in fact, yesterday every state in the contiguous United States had lightning strikes, except for California, Arizona and parts of New England.

Lightning Strikes 7/2

Looking at lightning strike data, which is measured by a worldwide sensor network, I can say for sure that there was lightning in the area at that time. According to this map, there were dozens of lightning strikes were reported near Frankfort, Kentucky, between 10 p.m. and 12 a.m. This lightning data is from the Earth Networks Total Lightning Network (ENTLN). This information also appears in a news story on AccuWeather.com that I have consulted on.

Lightning Strike Map 7/2 10pm-12am

Unofficial, and likely less accurate, lightning strike data provided by LightningMaps.Org shows a strike about 3 miles west of the distillery. I believe that 3 miles is likely within the margin of error for their lightning data, so it's plausible that lightning could have started the fire.

Unofficial Lightning Map 7/2

The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of AccuWeather, Inc. or AccuWeather.com

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