Tourists in Arizona say they found a "magnetic portal" — but are actually flirting with death (video)

A mother-daughter duo noticed electricity crackling from their fingertips on a visit to Horseshoe Bend, Arizona and thought they found a "magnetic portal." But in actuality, they came this close [holding finger to thumb one millimeter apart] from getting charred by a bolt of lightning.

"Look at my hair — it's electrified. And look at my mom's," Ale Soto said, laughing on TikTok as she panned the camera to her ecstatic mother, whose hair was sticking straight up to the sky. Her mother then pointed her finger, triggering a very audible sound of static. Both of the women then pointed their fingers towards the deep canyon below, and it sounded like raw chicken on a hot grill, accompanied by a gauzy streak of light.

What these lucky tourists didn't know at the time — but commenters made sure to teach them — is that this wasn't magic, but rather "this happens right before a lightning strike!!!!!" (See video below, posted by not_ _ an_ _influencer.)

Other commenters chimed in with warnings, mild shaming, and sighs of relief. "Girl, THAT IS LIGHTENING!!! How many people don't understand this is alarming," said one, accompanied by a line of shocked emoji faces. "That is not a magnetic portal. That is lightning very nearby – RUN GURRRLL," warned another. "Magnetic portal? Yeah to the afterlife," said a third, among dozens of others. Fortunately, the science-challenged women survived, at least long enough to post their experience on social media.

From AccuWeather:

The warnings were apt. Milliseconds before a lightning strike, negative ions from a cloud reach toward the Earth, causing a positive charge to reach up from multiple points on the ground, typically from metal objects or high points.

These are called "positive streamers," and manifest as strong static that can audibly buzz and make people's hair stand on end. Meteorologists believe that Soto was part of a rarely documented field of static charge that had built up prior to the establishment of a lightning strike.

How do we know that positive streamers can be a precursor to a deadly lightning strike? An infamous photo of a similar static event was taken during a thunderstorm in California in 1975 and featured a young boy who was struck and killed by lightning shortly thereafter.

After comments on her video, Soto clarified, "We stayed there for over an hour and there was no lightning; there must be another explanation."

Data from LightningMaps.Org shows that there were several strikes that afternoon approximately 20 miles northeast of Horseshoe Bend, over the state line in the vicinity of Lake Powell, Utah. The lightning was likely too far away to hear thunder at Horseshoe Bend.

In related news, here's another lucky lightning story — this time about a teen who struck a golf ball into a storm, only to see the ball struck by lightning mid-air.