It’s Severe Weather Awareness Week, and Storm Team 11 spent Monday focusing on lightning and lightning safety.
How is lightning formed?
When warm air is forced upwards, it creates storm clouds. Powerful forces within the cloud allow ice and water droplets to collide, creating electrical charges.
Once there is enough positive and negative charges, the charges split within the cloud. The positive charges head toward the top of the cloud, and the negative charges settle toward the bottom of the cloud. This creates an imbalance of energy that has to be corrected. The energy from the negative part of the cloud wants to reach a positive charge in order to balance the charges, which could mean connecting with another positive charge within the cloud or connecting with the ground which is also positively charged. The electricity between the charges connecting is lightning!
When lightning passes through the air, it can reach up to 50,000 degrees – five times hotter than the sun!
There are several outdoor activities in the Tri-Cities region, so it is always best to check the forecast when planning an outdoor adventure.
When is it dangerous?
If you are outside when you hear thunder, stop what you are doing and find a building or a vehicle to get inside. Wait out the storm until you cannot hear any more thunder. If you can hear thunder, you are in the range of lightning strikes.
But if you ever find yourself outside away from any shelter, you want to find a place far away from any tall trees or open fields, and you want to get to the lowest elevation possible. Be sure to stay away from water or wet items and metal objects such as fences or light poles as well. These items do not attract lightning, but they can conduct electricity very well allowing the electricity to travel long distances.
The best thing to remember about lightning is that when thunder roars, go indoors!