WSAV NOW WEATHER: Lightning’s charging path

WSAV NOW Weather

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — We are now in a typical summer-like pattern tracking everyday thunderstorms with lightning as the primary threat. However, it is not part of the criteria for a storm to become severe. With so many outdoor activities around here (swimming, enjoying the beach and pool, hanging out at the park, golfing) that you can’t risk waiting until a storm becomes severe to take shelter.

If you Hear Thunder, You are at Risk

Lightning creates thunder. The heat of lightning causes the atmosphere to expand. The sound of that expansion is thunder. For thunderstorms to be created, you need lightning to create that spark. Lightning strikes can occur up to 10-15 miles away from the main storm cell. If you can still hear thunder, even before or after it rains, you can still be struck by lightning.

Lightning tries to find the path of least resistance to the ground. Those outside before, during, and after a storm offer that path and are sometimes in the worst position during a storm.

Just like a magnet – opposite charges attract. In thunderstorms, there are both negative and positive charges. It goes from positive charges at the top of the cloud to negative charges in the middle to a small amount of positive charges on the bottom. The small amount of positive charges on the bottom of the cloud try to balance out the negative charges in the middle. When there is not an equal amount of opposite charges, the negative charges emerge from the bottom of the cloud to find that equal amount.

The negatively charged channel stretches towards the ground to find an equal amount of positive charges. The safety issue is that lightning doesn’t move in a straight line, meaning it won’t always hit the tallest object around you. It can hit shorter objects. Cloud to ground lightning is the most dangerous type of lightning.

If you are stuck outside without a safe place and you hear thunder in the distance, stay low to the ground. This will help lower your chances of being struck. If you are not around a sturdy building, your car can act like a safe place. As soon as you hear thunder, get inside as fast as you can. After the storm has passed wait 30 minutes after the last rumble of thunder to be sure you are safe to go back outside.

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