Severe weather awareness: Lightning

It's severe weather awareness week, and today we will chat about one of Mother Nature's most fascinating and deadly phenomena, lightning.

It should come as no surprise that we would start the week off on this topic. After all, Florida experiences the most thunderstorms out of any state in America and consequently we see the most lightning, too.


Lightning can come in several varieties: cloud-to-ground, cloud-to-cloud, and intra-cloud.

1. Cloud-to-ground lightning is the least common, but the most well known. It occurs when there is an electrical discharge of electricity from a cloud to an object on the ground.

2. The second most common type of lightning is cloud-to-cloud. It means the lightning bolt or electrical discharge jumps from one cloud to another cloud... Pretty self-explanatory!

3. Finally we have intra-cloud lightning, the most common type. "Intra" means on the inside or within, so this form of lightning refers to discharges within the same cloud.


Obviously out of the three types cloud-to-ground lightning is the most lethal. According to NOAA, there were three lightning fatalities in Florida last year, and on average there are fifty five killed nationally.

So lets go over some safety procedures and hope we can lower that number to zero for 2014.

First, there is a common myth that there must be clouds overhead or it must be raining for lightning to strike. This is certainly not the case. Lightning can travel up to 15 miles away from a storm, and can occur in clear blue skies.

That's why it is paramount to seek shelter as soon as you hear a clap of thunder.

But where do you go, what do you do? Well, most people in Florida are struck while near or on a body of water. So if you find yourself in this scenario -- get away. If you are outside don't seek shelter under a tree, in a ditch, under a car, or near metal. You want to get indoors, but if you're outside and can't get under the roof of a building, the inside of your car will suffice. 

If you are able to get inside you want to stay away from doors, windows, water, metal, and electrical devices.

A good rule of thumb is to go inside as soon as you hear thunder, and stay inside for thirty minutes after the last clap of thunder.

Your mantra should ALWAYS be "when thunder roars, go indoors."


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