Happy Thursday or Friday Eve! There’s always something special about Thursday. It may have something to do with that end of the week vibe. This Thursday happens to be extra special because we’re onto part 4 of the 5-part series for Severe Weather Awareness Week. Today’s topic is electrifying. Insert several Grease references here. Is that hint enough? Lightning.
First, a spelling lesson with some definitions. After this I expect lightning to never be misspelled ever again.
Lightning – The topic of today’s blog and the proper way to spell it as it relates to weather.
Lightening – The other form of lighten. Used talking about weight or mood. This has nothing to do with lightning in this blog do not spell weather lightning like this. It makes me angry.
Lightining – This is just a wrong spelling. Microsoft Word is currently yelling at me and it will yell at you too.
So, what is lightning? Lightning is the electrical discharge you see during a thunderstorm. It is commonly assumed that lightning comes from the sky, but it actually comes from the ground….kinda.
Without going super in-depth within a towering thunderstorm there are positive charges and negative charges. The positive charges are at the top of the cloud and the negative charges are at the bottom of the cloud. I’ve skipped an entire lesson on how the positive and negative charges get there, but you probably don’t want to read that.
From the negative charged bottom of the cloud comes a stepped leader. When this happens the positive charged objects on the ground send up a streamer. These two meet and BAM we have the very dangerous cloud to ground lightning. That’s why I say lightning comes from the sky, but at the same time it really doesn’t. It is more likely that streamers come from tall objects and that leads us to our first safety tip.
Avoid open fields and other tall objects when lightning is in the vicinity. Again, the negative charges tend to go after the tallest positively charged object. If you’re in an open field that’s probably you. Trees and tall buildings often fall victim to lightning strikes. Fun fact: The skinny pole on the top of skyscrapers is often for this exact reason. The lightning can hit the giant pole as opposed to the rest of the building.
Lightning is VERY hot. Lightning has an average temperature of 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit. The surface of the sun is about 7,000 – 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit.
That being said, it is impossible to survive being struck by lightning. I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking I’m wrong because your cousin got struck and is doing fine. Well your cousin wasn’t DIRECTLY struck by lightning. Often when lightning strikes a tree some of that current can bounce off the tree and hit the near person or when lightning strikes the ground the current can travel and strike you that way. It comes off as you can survive being struck, and you can if it isn’t a direct hit. How many trees have you seen survive a direct hit? None? Me either.
As fast as the process of lightning is there is a bit of a warning sign that can give you a few seconds to get out of dodge. When you as the positively charged object are sending up a streamer you’ll begin to feel very tingly. At this point you have mere seconds to get to a place of safety. Actually, it’s just best to never be outside in the first place during an event where there is lightning.
The above map shows states ranked in regard to the number of deaths related to lightning since 1959. The states in dark red rate highest with the light blue rating the lowest in number of deaths. Obviously, these states are across the Pacific NW where lightning is less common in the first place.
As always I close this blog with just a simple reminder to stay weather aware by following Maggie and I on-air and online. Lastly always have the WZDX Weather App is a handy tool.