Watches, Warnings & Advisories for Sunflower Co.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Severe Weather Awareness Week - Lightning


Nationwide in 2010, 30 people were killed by lightning. Since 1959 a staggering 3919 people have lost their lives as a direct result of being struck. In an average year around 25 million lightning strikes are recorded across the United State alone. Worldwide there are around 1800 thunderstorms ongoing at any given time. Lightning is an incredibly powerful electrical discharge, containing up to 100 million volts of electrical charge and capable of reaching 50000 degrees Fahrenheit. Cloud to Ground Lightning is the result of incredible differences in electrical charge which forms within thunderstorms…as well as between thunderstorms and the earth’s surface. Recent science suggests that ice in thunderstorms is key to creating the massive charge differences which lead to lightning. Thunderstorm updrafts and downdrafts work to separate smaller
ice particles from larger hail stones within the storm. As this happens many of the ice pieces collide resulting in a separation of electrical charge. The higher part of the storm contains primarily positively charged small ice crystals, with negative charged larger chunks of ice down low. As the storm moves across the earth a pool of positively charged particles gathers near the ground. Eventually a brief electrical circuit is created as a negatively charged “step leader” descends from the storm toward the ground and eventually connects to the positive charge on the ground. The extreme heating of the air with lightning causes a rapid expansion of the air around it, leading to thunder. The sound of thunder will travel away from lightning at a speed around 1 mile every 5 seconds. If you can see lightning and hear thunder at your location you are not safe, if you hear thunder within 30 seconds after seeing lightning your life is in immediate danger.

Lightning Safety Rules—Outdoors

Seek shelter inside a house, large building or an all metal vehicle with the windows rolled up (avoid convertibles).

If your hair stands on end and your skin tingles... lightning is about to strike. Take cover immediately!

When boating, head for shore and get into a shelter, or vehicle. If caught in a boat, lie down in the boat with cushions between you and the boat's side and bottom.


Large trees, hilltops and other high places.

Chain link fences and any other metal fences like those around ball parks and play grounds.

Motorcycles, scooters, golf carts, small metal sheds, bicycles, tractors and farm equipment that does not have an enclosed metal cab.

Lightning Safety Rules - Indoors

Stay away from windows. Avoid telephones and electrical appliances (wires connecting to these devices run
outside of the home and act as lightning rods). Don’t wash dishes or take a shower. The pipes will conduct

Unplug computers and other sensitive electrical devices (time permitting) since surge suppressors may not protectthese items if lightning hits close to the home.

Remember, there is no truth to the old myth that ―lightning never strikes twice.

Take time this week to learn or refresh your memory on lightning safety rules. That quick dash out in the open when athunderstorm is in progress may unnecessarily expose you to the possibility of being struck. It is not worth the risk.

If a person is struck by lightning, there is no residual charge left on the body. The quick application of CPR
may maintain vital body functions until medical help can be obtained.

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