This week is severe weather awareness week in Georgia… and today we talk about the risk of lightning. Lightning occurs with all thunderstorms… and is what defines a thunderstorm… a convective cell with electrical activity.
Savannah… the Coastal Empire and Low Country faces danger from lightning throughout the spring and summer months.
Did you know that over the course of one year… the earth will be struck by lightning nearly 20 million times? Did you know that every year an average of 58 people are killed by lightning strikes… which is more than those killed by tornadoes?
StormTeam 3 and WSAV keep track of thunderstorms 24 hours a day… and we are here to keep you safe. So in addition to on tv and online radar images and forecasts… we provide you with what to do and not to do in regards to lightning.
So… avoid becoming at all costs… and avoid being a lightning statistic by just remembering this slogan… "when thunder roars go indoors".
So how does lightning form in the first place? Lightning results from the buildup and discharge of electrical energy between positively and negatively charged ice particles within the storm cloud. A thunderstorm generates a huge static electrical charge as ice particles inside the storm collide and through friction generate a static charge. These particles of suspended ice in the thunderstorm collide as they are carried around by the storm's updraft and downdraft. Once the static electrical charge is strong enough to travel from the cloud to the ground, a lightning bolt is created.
A lightning bolt contains as much current as three hundred thousand amps and a around three hundred million volts. The intense electrical current heats the air around the lightning strike instantly to 50,000 degrees. This is five times hotter than the surface of the sun. This instantaneous heating of air around the lightning strike causes the air molecules to explosively expand. This expansion occurs so rapidly it compresses the air forming a shock wave similar to a sonic boom. The shock wave travels through the atmosphere... resulting in thunder.
Since light travels faster than sound… you can use thunder to gage the distance of a lightning strike. Merely count the number of seconds between the moment you see the flash of lightning and hear the clap of thunder. Once you see lightning... start counting seconds. For every 5 seconds that go by before you hear the clap of thunder... that's one mile. Keep in mind this technique only tells you how far away that one lightning strike was from your location. The next one could be a lot closer.
Lightning can travel 10 to 12 miles from a thunderstorm. For that reason, anytime you hear thunder or see lightning, seek shelter indoors. When thunder roars go indoors.
Most lightning fatalities occur when people are caught outside working, playing, boating or golfing.
Because of the abundance of outdoor activities in Georgia and South Carolina... we are especially vulnerable to lightning. If outside... move indoors if possible as soon as thunder is heard. If caught outdoors… stay away from trees… telephone poles and other tall objects. A vehicle will offer good protection from lightning. When boating... try to seek safe shelter well before the storm approaches.
When indoors… do not use corded telephones and stay away from windows. Also stay away from plumbing and water sources such as the sink… tub or shower. In many cases lightning finds its way into your home though the utilities.
When sheltering from lightning… stay indoors for at least 30 minutes after hearing the last clap of thunder. This should guarantee your safety.
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