Lightning Bolt

Lightning Safety Tips

 Photo courtesy of Les Green  

One dangerous aspect of weather that sometimes is not taken as seriously as others is lightning, also known as the Underrated Killer. An average of 54 people are reported killed each year by lightning, yet hundreds are permanently injured across the United States. Those who survive strikes can suffer long lasting injuries and symptoms.

 In a thunderstorm areas of rising and descending air separate positive and negative charges. When this static charge becomes too great, lightning occurs. It's very similar to the spark you can get touching a light switch during winter, only on a much grander scale.

The average lightning flash could light a 100-watt bulb for more than 3 months. The temperature of a lightning bolt may reach 50,000 degrees. This rapid heating of the air near the lightning causes the thunder. Unlike tornadoes, hail, or high winds, lightning can occur during any stage of a thunderstorm.


Avoid getting caught in a dangerous situation!

If you can hear thunder,

you are close enough to be struck by lightning!


1. Move into a sturdy building or an automobile with a metal top. The metal car body will allow the charge to be conducted away from you. An open vehicle will not offer this protection.

2. Golfers and ball players are at risk by wearing metal cleats and handling golf clubs and metal bats which can act as lightning rods. These people and any fans present are especially vulnerable because they are usually on a fairway or ball field, both of which are wide open. Those attending rodeos or concerts in open arenas, sitting on metal bleachers or under a metal overhang, are also at risk. When thunderstorms approach, head for shelter

3. Get out of boats, canoes, inner tubes and away from water, as water is an electrical conductor. On the open water, you become the tallest object and a prime target.

4. If lightning is close, and no immediate shelter available, crouch down onto the balls of your feet. Do NOT lie down and give lightning more surface area to strike. By crouching down you are as low to the ground as possible with the minimum amount of contact with the ground.

Did you know?  

Thunderstorms do not have to be large in size or severe in nature to create potentially fatal lightning strikes.

 As any thunderstorm grows, areas of rising and descending air cause a buildup and separation of positively and negatively charged particles within the storm. At the same time, oppositely charged particles are gathering on the ground below. The attraction between the particles in the cloud and at the ground quickly grows, and once the force is strong enough to overcome the air's resistance, lightning occurs.

Lightning can rapidly reach a temperature near 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

The rapid expansion of heated air causes the sound one hears as thunder.  Since light travels faster than sound through the atmosphere, the sound will be heard after the lightning is seen.

To estimate your distance from lightning, use the "Flash to Bang Method".

 If you observe a lightning strike, count how many seconds pass before you hear thunder.Take that number and divide it by five to estimate your distance from the lightning in miles. is the U.S. government's official web portal to all federal, state and local government web resources and services.