When Storms Aren’t Severe, Lightning Still Poses a Threat

Severe Weather Awareness
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(ABC9 News) – Our Severe Weather Week topic for Thursday is “Lightning.”

The air near a lightning strike is momentarily heated to 50,000°F. That’s hotter than the surface of the sun!

Over 300 people are struck by lightning each year – killing nearly 60 people annually while hundreds more suffer permanent neurological disabilities related to lightning strikes.

All thunderstorms produce lightning and are dangerous, but lightning often strikes away from rain or what’s called a “Bolt from the Blue.” So remember that if you hear thunder, you are in danger! When thunder roars, go indoors.

Since the most common place that we encounter lightning is while we’re at home, we’ll break down some of the safe and unsafe areas where you can take shelter.

A few places you certainly want to avoid are the pool, near a metal fence, or under a tree. If you’re in the pool and you hear thunder, head indoors! Water conducts electricity which can be transferred to your body. Metal conducts electricity and tall objects attract lightning strikes as well, so avoid metal fences and tree coverage.

A car provides a decent alternative in lightning protection, but it’s not ideal. If you’re driving, you’ll likely be OK with a thunderstorm continuing outside since lightning is deflected around the metal body. Golf carts, ATVs, and other unenclosed vehicles offer no shelter though – contrary to popular belief, the rubber tires do NOT protect you from lightning.

At ABC9, we have a new feature with our radar graphics where bluish-white lightning bolts will indicate the spots where lightning has struck in the past 5 minutes. So look for lightning information on our HD Radar this severe weather season. It’s just one more way we’re trying to keep you informed!

One of the best ways to stay informed on severe weather is through the use of a NOAA Weather Radio in your home! Weather radios receive Watches and Warnings for your area from the National Weather Service and alert you instantly. Pick one up the next time you drop by area Hy-Vee stores at a discounted price.

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