Lightning…Beatuiful & Deadly

Lightning is one of the most spectacular things to see. At the same time its quite deadly. In 2007, there were 45 fatalities across the country. In 2006, there were 47. Do you think Texas leads the way for lightning fatalities, I mean we are a big state, right? Florida actually takes the cake. They had 11 out of the 45 fatalities in 2007. Typically most of the deaths occur in Summer when afternoon thunderstorms develop with daytime heating and with Florida surrounded by water, it’s not a good combination.

How does lightning form? In thunderstorms there are ice crystals and hailstones that are being created in updrafts & downdrafts. These ice crystals grow larger and colder as they as they head higher in the atmosphere. Then the ice crystals begin to rub against each other creating an electrical charge. The top part of a thunderstorm will have positively charged particles while the bottom part has negatively charged particles. This differential charge will cause positively charged¬† particles on the ground and when the charge difference is large…lightning will occur.

Lightning will try to make it from the cloud to the tallest object on the ground but that does not always happen. The safest place to be during a lightning storm is in home or vehicle. However if the storm has a tornado in it, then get out of the car and see a sturdy building away from windows. If you’re in your car don’t touch metal objects or open the window. If lightning hits your car, the current will travel around your car and give you some protection.

If you are outside and no shelter is available: Try and make yourself the smallest target by crouching down on the balls of your feet. Do NOT lie face down on the ground. If lightning hits the ground the current can travel on the ground through you.

In a home: Don’t use the phone or take a bath or shower. If lightning hits your house or the ground next to your house the current can travel through your pipes. I went to a conference and heard from a survivor who got struck while near the sink in his bathroom. The water wasn’t even running.

How far can you tell if the lightning is in relative to your location. When lightning flashes start counting the seconds and when you hear the thunder stop counting. Take that number and divide by 5. So if its 15 seconds from the time you see the flash then hear the thunder, divide by 5 and you get 3 miles. The lightning is 3 miles away.

And finally, how can you tell the storms have moved away. Use part of the 30/30 rule. If you see and hear thunder within 30 seconds or less… seek shelter. Remain in your shelter until 30 minutes after the final clap of thunder. A reminder if you hear thunder but don’t see it, you can be struck by lightning.¬† So when you hear the roar.. head indoors.

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