CLARKSBURG, W.Va. – As we dive deeper into the severe weather season, we look at lightning and its dangers in West Virginia as we look at the possibility of more severe thunderstorms in the coming months.
WHAT IS IT?
Lighting is a huge spark of electricity caused by imbalances between clouds or between the cloud and the ground.
HOW DOES IT HAPPEN:
When rain, snow or ice collide inside a cloud during a thunderstorm, this increases the imbalance between the clouds and ground and causes them to have either a type of charge. The heavier particles carry negative charges to the lower part of the storm cloud. Objects on the ground, including towers, trees or the ground itself become positively charged and an electrical current is passed between the two charges. But commonly, particles within storm clouds unite to allow lightning bolts to strike within the clouds. Which brings us to the two most types of lightning: cloud-to-cloud lightning and cloud-to-ground lightning.
TYPES OF LIGHTNING:
Cloud-to-ground lightning is when a negatively charged particle connects to a positively charged particle outside of the cloud. Each bolt of lightning can contain up to one billion volts of electricity.
Cloud to-cloud or cloud-to-air lightning is more common, as roughly 5 to 10 times as many cloud flashes occur than cloud-to-ground flashes.
LIGHTNING DAMAGE/LIGHTNING SAFETY:
Cloud-to-ground lightning flashes kill about 2,000 people worldwide per year. Although thousands a year die, hundred a year survive, but suffer from a variety of after-effects of the lightning, including memory loss, dizziness, weakness, numbness, etc. Lightning strikes can cause cardiac arrest as well as severe burns.
The best way to stay safe from lightning strikes, is to be sheltered inside during a thunderstorm. If you hear thunder, then lightning is close enough to strike you. This is why there is the saying, “When thunder roars, go indoors.” Meaning you should be staying away from all doors and windows during the storm. Never be in or near a body of water including lakes or ponds. Also, stay away from object that conduct electricity, including corded phones, game systems, stoves and computers. You should also stay away from anything to do with plumbing including the shower or sink because lightning can travel through the plumbing.
The heat of a lightning strike will vaporize water inside a tree, creating steam that may blow a tree apart.
MYTHS ABOUT LIGHTNING:
According to the National Weather Service, there are many myths about lightning. One frequently heard myth is that lightning never strikes the same place twice. This is false, lightning often strikes the same place repeatedly, especially if it’s a tall, pointy object.
Another myth about lightning is the concept of heat lightning. Heat lightning is NOT REAL. There is no such thing as heat lightning. What you are seeing is the flashes of normal lightning being reflected off clouds. At nighttime, it’s easier to see.
For a full list of myths, you can check out this website: https://www.weather.gov/safety/lightning-myths
To view the 2021 StormTracker 12 Severe Weather Special in its entirety, please click here.