Powerful thunderstorms full of lightning can occur at any time of the year, but they are most prevalent when the weather is warm. Moisture and warmth are crucial to thunderstorms, and they form when the air is unstable.
According to The Weather Channel, as the sun heats up the air near the Earth’s surface, air rises and cools. At this point, it condenses to create moisture that forms a cloud. If conditions are right, the cloud will continue to build. Moisture is carried up high, and forms ice crystals or hail. These ice particles bump into one another and give off electrical charges. Negative charges are attracted to positive charges around them, including on the ground. If the attraction is great enough, negative and positive charges will join together and discharge. It is this discharge that produces lightning and thunder.
Though magnificent to watch and experience, lightning can be very dangerous. That is why it is essential for people to move indoors when storms are approaching. In addition, it’s important to separate fact from fiction regarding lightning. The following are some common myths about lightning, and what the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Insurance Information Institute have to say about them.
- Myth: Lightning never strikes the same place twice.
Fact: Lightning can strike the same place twice, especially if it is a tall, pointy, isolated object. The Empire State Building has been hit up to a dozen times during a single storm.
- Myth: Crouching down outside during a thunderstorm is a safe option.
Fact: You are not safe anywhere outdoors. Try to get to a substantial building or hard-topped vehicle.
- Myth: If the sky is clear, you are safe from lightning.
Fact: Lightning can strike more than three miles from the center of the thunderstorm, far outside the rain or thunderstorm cloud.
- Myth: Lightning victims carry an electrical charge, and another person can be electrocuted if he or she touches them.
Fact: The human body does not store electricity. Provide first aid immediately if you are able and call 9-1-1.
- Myth: You are completely safe in your home.
Fact: While you are much safer in a sturdy home, lightning will travel toward the ground via the fastest route possible. That can mean along pipes, cables, gutters, water, wires, and metal windows. Using a corded electronic device or even washing the dishes while a storm is overhead can put you at risk.
- Myth: Rubber tires insulate people from lightning while driving.
Fact: It’s actually the metal car that protects occupants. The lightning travels through the car frame to the ground. Don’t lean on doors during a thunderstorm.
Lightning is a considerable hazard and should be treated as such. There is no completely safe place to be during a lightning event. However, there are ways to reduce risk of injury.