It's Electric: Lightning Safety Tips

Thunder and lightning can be thought of as twins, because it comes in pairs. Even if you don't see lightning at first, but hear thunder it is important to seek shelter and get out of the storms path.

Lightning is a way the earth balances electrical charges. The top of the storm cloud becomes negatively charged, while the ground below becomes positively charged. Negative energy produces bolts that go to the ground to balance out the atmosphere, also known as the invisible channel flow. The human eye doesn't see the bolt of lightning until the negative energy has connected with positive energy.

The flash of lightning that we see is known as the return stroke and it is a strike stemming from the ground up into the cloud, not the other way around. It may appear this way because the light travels so fast. Lightning can strike up to several miles from the actual storm, so it is important to remain in a safe location even if you think lightning is over.

The reason that we hear thunder is in part due to the return strike. Other factors that contribute to why and how we hear thunder is due to the air density, terrain and buildings.

The electrical charge of the lightning is very hot. In fact, five times the hotness of the sun. The odds of getting struck by lightning are 1 in 500,000 and between 50-100 people each year are injured or killed by lightning strikes. About one-third of people that are struck by lightning were participating in recreational activities, another one-third were working and the last one-third happens in diverse situations, such as standing next to windows or being struck indoors.

If someone survives a lightning strike, a lifetime of complications from the strike is more than likely. The majority of people that are struck by lightning and survive develop permanent brain complications. Difficulty remembering short-term events, multi-tasking, distractibility, personality changes, accessing old information and coding new information are all examples of what could happen to a person who was struck by lightning.

Staying well informed about changing weather conditions and seeking shelter before the storm starts are great ways to ensure you are safe from lightning. Remaining away from windows, avoiding bathing and or washing your hands during the storm are all safety precautions to follow, because lightning can break windows and travel through plumbing. Also, avoiding talking on the telephone is also a good idea, because lightning can travel through cords.

Story by AccuWeather.com Staff Writer Molly Cochran

More Weather Glossary

Loading...

Daily U.S. Extremes

past 24 hours

  Extreme Location
High N/A
Low N/A
Precip N/A

WeatherWhys®

This Day In Weather History

Richmond, VA (1975)
3.01" of rain fell in evening thunderstorms. This was the second day of 9 straight days in which measurable rain fell. Nearly 8 inches of rain fell in this period. Rainfall in July, 1975 totalled 12.29 inches.

Gulf of Mexico (1979)
Hurricane Bob, 140 miles SSW of New Orleans moved ashore at Grand Isle, LA; New Orleans had 70-mph gusts, trees and power lines went down. Gulfport, MS had 6 inches of rain in 24 hours. Four tornadoes, 2 in SE Louisiana, 1 in Florida and 1 in SE Alabama. A total of 2.16 inches of rain in Baton Rouge, LA in 6 hours.

Medina, TX (1988)
Close to 13 inches of rain; flash flooding killed 2 people.