All thunderstorms have lightning in them even when we are unable to see it. Lightning is defined as: “a brilliant electric spark discharge in the atmosphere, occurring within a thundercloud, between clouds, or between a cloud and the ground.” (source) An estimated 300 people are struck by lightning every year in the U.S. Most of them survive but have lingering damage caused by injuries from the strike.
Thunder which is the sound lightning makes can be heard as little as 2 miles away and as far as 12. Average bolts are six miles long and can race across the sky up to forty miles away before it turns downward and strikes. If you hear thunder or see lightning you are close enough to be in danger!
Lightning bolts are an average of 55,000 degrees, or five times as hot as the surface of the sun. The high temperature instantly turns water to vapor or ultra hot steam. This steam can cause concrete, trees, walls, clothing or any other item that contains the smallest amount of water to explode.
Some of the more interesting facts include:
About 20 million ground strikes are believed to occur in the United States every year.
The U.S. has approximately 100,000 of these storms occur each year.
More than 2000 thunderstorms are estimated to be happening all over the world each moment.
80% of livestock deaths which are accidental are blamed by being hit by lightning.
As with anything there are myths surrounding it as well. Such as:
Surge suppressors are not as safe as they have been touted to be, and have been known to start fires.
A person who has been struck by lightning is not “electrified”. It it perfectly safe to touch them.
Lightning does in fact strike twice. Contrary to this old myth, it happens frequently.
Lightning also strikes water despite what old tales have led us to believe.
Most lightning strikes occur during the summer when people are outdoors enjoying recreational activities. Being outside they can get caught unaware and are unable to find shelter quickly enough. People also fail to understand that lightning can strike even when the sky overhead is clear. Once the storm appears to have passed they return to whatever they were doing and lightning can strike.
It is important to pay attention to the clouds around you and keep a weather monitor tuned in when there is a chance of storms.