The Risk of Lightning and How to Stay Safe                  

By Scherri Evans in association with National Weather Service Paducah, KY

While fascinating to watch, lightning poses a threat to societies whether it be fires or getting struck. There are millions of lightning flashes each year in the United States alone and in the last 30 years, lightning strikes have caused numerous fatalities as well as life-long injuries.  Understanding the dangers of lightning is essential to safeguarding yourself against the potential threat.

How do storms develop and produce lightning?

All storms go through differing stages of growth and development, but mainly form in the early parts of the day when the Sun heats the surface and pockets of air start rising. When they reach a certain point in the atmosphere, cumulus clouds begin to develop. As condensation takes place, ice crystals begin to form and drop in the layers of the atmosphere as they get heavier. The movement of these ice crystals allows them to develop electrification and as the heavier crystals drop, they become negatively charged in the middle and lower part of the clouds. Beneath the clouds, a positive charge develops on the ground creating a connection to the negative charges. Lightning forms as the electrification of the negative and positive charges becomes greater, causing a large spark of electricity to be released that is as hot as 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

How do I stay safe during a thunderstorm? Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

If you hear thunder, you are likely in an area that will allow you to be struck by lightning. The saying, “When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors” applies to all situations. The delayed reaction of not reaching cover is a catalyst for injuries and even fatalities. If you somehow find yourself in a situation where you cannot reach cover in a vehicle or covered shelter, the following tips apply:

  1. Avoid open fields, the top of a hill or a ridge top.
  2. Stay away from tall, isolated trees or other tall objects. If you are in a forest, stay near a lower stand of trees.
  3. If you are in a group, spread out to avoid the current traveling between group members.
  4. If you are camping in an open area, set up camp in a valley, ravine or other low area. Remember, a tent offers NO protection from lighting.
  5. Stay away from water, wet items, such as ropes, and metal objects, such as fences and poles. Water and metal do not attract lightning, but they are excellent conductors of electricity. The current from a lightning flash will easily travel for long distances.

Make sure to follow your daily forecasts so you know what to expect for the weather each day. Whether you are working, playing sports, or having fun with family outside, be sure to take precautions and take action as soon as possible to avoid being struck by lightning.

Posted on July 31, 2023, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: