Lightning is caused by the discharge of electricity between clouds or between clouds and the earth. In a thunderstorm there is a rapid gathering of particles of moisture into clouds and forming of large drops of rain. This gathers with it electric potential until the surface of the cloud (or the enlarged water particles) is insufficient to carry the charge, and a discharge takes place, producing a brilliant flash of light.

The power of the electrical charge and intense heat associated with lightning can electrocute on contact, split trees, ignite fires, and cause electrical failures. Most lightning casualties occur in the summer months, during the afternoon and early evening. An average of 215 structural and non-structural fires are caused by lightning each year in Minnesota, with average annual damages totaling $3,013,171.

Lightning causes an average of 35 wildfires per year in Minnesota, with average annual suppression costs totaling $54,864 and average annual damages totaling $10,357 based upon statistics maintained by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (MN DNR) Division of Forestry.

Lightning during thunderstorms has impacted residents of Wadena County. The most common impact in Wadena County is structural fires caused by lightning and damage to electronics as a result of power surges.