The most awesome 26 seconds of my day
It’s amazing to watch the path of the lightning as it branches and diffuses through random paths, until finally one of its “fingers” finds the ground. Immediately, all other paths are forgotten as massive amounts of electrical current rush from the cloud to the ground.
It’s a bit like a huge reservoir of freshly-melted water forming branching rivers and streams that run downhill searching for the ocean. When one branch finally meets the ocean, all the other little streams dry up and a strong river is formed. This analogy is actually a very precise one. A thunderstorm cloud is a “huge reservoir” of electric charge, and the ground is like an enormous “ocean” of charge to which it can flow.
Below is a picture of a very similar thing happening in plastic instead of air.