- Education and Science
Lightning An Electrical Storm
A summertime lightning show can be a thing of beauty. As long as the lightning streaks across the sky and does not create cloud to ground lightning bolts, you can enjoy the free light show. The night-time shows are quite beautiful but there are some pretty ones in the daytime, too. These are the lightening charges that appear off in the distance but do not seem to produce rain.
It has been reported that you have a 1 in 600,000 chance of being struck by lightning during your lifetime. Since 1959, approx. 86 people die each year from lightning strikes. These are people who were fishing, swimming, hiking, playing outdoor sports, taking a shower or a bath, talking on a telephone, or standing next to electrical appliances in their home.
Even the weakest thunderstorms will produce lightning. Approximately 1800 thunderstorms occur on earth at any given time.
In a thunderstorm, lightening is created by a discharge of energy build up due to the separation of positive and negative charges generated from within the thunderstorm. Not all lightning forms in the negatively charged area that is at the lower part of a thunderstorm cloud. Lightning will sometimes form in the cirrus anvil at the top of the thunderstorm. This area carries a large positive charge and can carry it to a negative charged area on the ground. This type is particularly dangerous.
It often strikes as far as 5 to 10 miles from the storm. Most people would not think this a risk for lightning to strike that far from the storm. Another issue is that positive lightning usually has a longer duration and this will result in more electrical charge being transferred to the ground. This becomes a higher risk to an individual and a high risk for fires to be ignited.
The way to tell how far away the lightning strike is from you is to start counting one- one thousand, two-one thousand, etc. after you see the first lightning strike. Continue counting until you hear the clap of thunder and divide that number by 5 to get the distance between you and the lightning.
There are safety precautions to protect your favorite electrical equipment, computers, t.v.’s, etc. during an electrical thunderstorm like high quality surge protectors. You can install lightning rods next to the buildings on your property. You also can plant a tree that grows taller than your home because lightning will strike the tallest object.
A list of personal safety tips about lightning.
1. If you are on a lake and hear thunder, immediately get off the lake and take cover in a marina or automobile.
2. An automobile is good cover if there is no tornado or you are not in danger from flash flooding—but don’t touch metal in the car.
3. If you are holding a fishing pole or golf club, immediately get those objects out of your hands and seek shelter.
4. Get away from trees because they can act as lightning rods.
5. If you are outdoors hiking, playing sports, swimming, biking, etc.---seek shelter immediately because you are in danger of getting hit by lightning.
6. Do not take a shower, bath, or wash your hands during a thunderstorm because lightning travels through metal pipes.
7. Do not get next to or use any electrical appliances.
8. Do not use a telephone that has a cord because lightning easily travels through phone lines.
9. If you are outdoors, do not walk or get close to metal fencing or anything metal as you make your way to shelter.
If your hair stands on end or you feel a tingling sensation in your skin, you are about to be struck by lightning. Immediately crouch down near the ground but don’t lay flat as this would increase the amount of electrical current your body would receive if lightning struck close to you.
If someone is struck by lightning, start CPR immediately. Most victims can be saved if treated immediately.