Lightning is one of nature’s most awe inspiring and dangerous phenomenon. The average lightning flash could light a 100-watt bulb for more than three months. The temperature of a lightning bolt may reach 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit, which is hotter than the surface of the sun. On the average, lightning kills one person in Kansas each year. In fact, lightning remains one of the most deadly weather phenomena in the United States and it can occur almost anywhere throughout the entire year. Many people incur injuries or are killed due to misinformation and inappropriate behavior during thunderstorms. A few simple precautions can reduce many of the dangers posed by lightning. Avoid being in or near high places and open fields, isolated trees, unprotected gazebos, picnic shelters, baseball dugouts, towers, flag poles, light poles, bleachers, metal fences, convertibles, golf carts, lakes, swimming pools, and rivers.
If you can hear thunder, you are close enough to the storm to be struck by lightning.
Louder or more frequent thunder indicates that lightning activity is approaching, increasing the risk of lightning injury or death. If the time delay between seeing the lightning and hearing the thunder is less than 30 seconds, go inside or immediately go to a safe shelter, such as a sturdy building or a hard top automobile. If an automobile is not available, find a low spot away from trees, fences, and poles. Be alert to the possibility of flash flooding. If you are in the woods, take shelter under short trees or bushes. If you feel your skin tingle or your hair stand on end, squat low to the ground on the balls of your feet. Place your hands on your knees with your head between them. Make yourself the smallest target possible and minimize your contact with the ground. Do not lie flat on the ground.
Telephone lines and metal pipes can conduct electricity. Unplug appliances not necessary for obtaining weather information, Avoid using electrical appliances. Use phones only in an emergency. Turn off your air conditioner. Power surges from lightening can overload the compressor. Unplug your computer and disconnect the phone line if you have a modem. Avoid taking a shower, washing your hands, doing the dishes, or any contact with conductive surfaces with exposure to the outside such as a metal door or window frames, electrical wiring, telephone wiring, cable TV wiring, plumbing, etc.
If you are boating or swimming, get to land and find shelter immediately!
If you are driving, stay in your automobile. An enclosed automobile offers reasonably good protection from lightning as long as you don’t touch metal.
Local Weather forecasts should be monitored prior to any outdoor event to see if thunderstorms are in the forecasts.
- All thunderstorms produce lightning.
- Lightning often strikes outside of heavy rain and may occur as far as 10 miles away from any rainfall.
- Most lightning occurs within the cloud or between the cloud and ground.
- Lightning results from the buildup and discharge of electrical energy between positively and negatively charged areas. The action of rising and descending air within a thunderstorm separates positive and negative charges.
National Weather Service Office/Topeka