Lightning Strike Grounds BWI Flights For Hours, Injures Air Traffic Controller

LINTHICUM, Md. (WJZ) — A lightning bolt strikes the air traffic control tower at BWI–injuring an employee and grounding planes for hours.

Now delays stretch across the country and into the night.

Meghan McCorkell has the latest.

That lightning strike hit the tower just before 2:30 p.m. Thursday afternoon, and grounded flights for hours.

A lightning strike leaves a sea of passengers stranded.

“We’re stuck in Baltimore,” a passenger said.

“Hopefully we can get out of BWI safely tonight,” said another traveler.

A bolt of lightning hit the air traffic control tower at BWI. One controller was brought to his knees when he was shocked, causing the FAA to close the tower.

“They’re about to put out a notice to airmen, shutting down all of the runways,” Captain Jeff Long reported.

It was not welcome news for travelers.

“Oh no. Mine says canceled,” a passenger said.

“I’m off to Sydney, Australia. So, if I miss my next flight then I won’t get there for another day,” said David Hunt, passenger.

After nearly three hours, flights resume, but delays remain.

“With the suspension of all airline activity for a number of hours here, we expect many cancellations and widespread delays,” said Jonathan Dean, BWI Airport.

There were long lines at Terminal C–the Southwest terminal–with passengers trying to figure out if their flights are delayed or canceled.

“I had a 4:45 flight. I found out on the way here it was going to leave at 6:45, and now I may get on the 8:15 it sounds like,” said Brian Hunt, passenger.

More than 100 flights were canceled. Some passengers are trying to look on the bright side.

“I’ve already booked for tomorrow, so now I’m trying to get home tonight. If not, I’ll go to the O’s game,” said Ron Smith, passenger.

The air traffic control tower is back open.

The air traffic controller that was injured experienced numbness in his arms and legs. He has been released from the hospital.

Officials with the air traffic controllers union say they cannot remember another time that lightning has struck the tower.

More from Meghan McCorkell
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