After all the recent thunderstorms over the past few weeks, it might be a good time to review lightning facts and safety. Lightning causes an average of 80 fatalities and 300 injuries each year. Over a dozen people have been killed or injured in Colorado so far this Summer.
How Lightning Forms
Lightning results froom the buildup and discharge of electrical energy between positively and negatively charged areas within a cumulonimbus cloud. Rising and descending air within a thunderstorm separates thes positive and negative charges. Water and ice particles also affect charge distribution.
A cloud-to-ground lightning strike begins as an invisible negatively-charged channel of electrically charged air (called a "step leader") moving from the cloud toward the ground.
When the channel nears an object on the ground, a powerful surge of positively-charged electricity from the ground moves upward, makes the connection, and produces the visible lightning strike. Electricity will rapidly move up and down the channel until all of the energy is spent.
How far away is the Thunderstorm?
30/30 Lightning Safety Rule
Lightning Myths and Truths
MYTH: If it is not raining, then there is no danger from lightning.
TRUTH: Lightning often strikes outside of heavy rain and may occur as far as 10 miles away
from any rainfall. This is especially true in the western United States where
thunderstorms often produce very little rain ("dry lightning").
MYTH: The rubber soles of shoes or rubber tires on a car will protect you from being struck
TRUTH: Rubber-soled shoes and rubber tires provide NO protection from lightning. The steel
frame of a hard-topped vehicles provides increased protection if you are not touching
MYTH: People struck by lightning carry an electrical charge and should not be touched.
TRUTH: Lightning-strike victims carry no electrical charge and should be attended to
immediately. Most who die do so because their hearts have stopped. Apply
CPR at once.
MYTH: "Heat lightning" occurs during hot Summer days and poses no threat.
TRUTH: There is no such thing as "heat lightning". This is lightning from a thunderstorm too far
away for thunder to be heard.