How to guard yourself during thunderstorms – summer is the season with the best risk

As the weather gets warmer, people spend more time outdoors, going to barbecues, the beach and ball gamesBut summer isn't just the season for baseball and outdoor festivals—it's also the season for lightning.

Each 12 months, lightning strikes roughly 37 million times within the United States. kills 21 people per 12 months within the USA on average.

Because as often as there’s lightning, there are only a number of days a 12 months nationwide without flash – there are still many misconceptions about nature's biggest spark. Because of this, many individuals take unnecessary risks when thunderstorms are nearby.

I’m a meteorologist and I work with lightning and lightning protection. I’m also a member of the National Lightning Protection CouncilHere are some facts to assist protect your loved ones and friends this summer:

What is lightning and where does it come from?

Lightning is a big electrical spark within the atmosphere and is assessed in keeping with whether or not it hits the earth.

Lighting in clouds is any lightning that doesn’t strike the bottom, while cloud-to-ground lightning – or, less commonly, ground-to-cloud lightning – is any lightning that strikes an object on the bottom. Cloud-to-ground lightning accounts for under 10 to 50 percent of the lightning in a thunderstorm, but it will possibly cause damage, including fires, injuries, and deaths, so it's necessary to know where it strikes.

A brilliant spectacle of lightning striking the tall tower and zigzagging through the sky.
In April 2023, lightning strikes One World Trade Center in New York City and races through the clouds over the Hudson River.
Gary Hershorn/Getty Images

Lightning occurs when rain, ice crystals and a style of hail called sleet collide in a thundercloud.

When these precipitation particles collide, they exchange electrons, creating an electrical charge within the cloud. Since many of the electrical charge is within the clouds, most lightning occurs within the clouds. If the electrical charge within the cloud is powerful, it will possibly cause an opposite charge to accumulate at the bottom, making cloud-to-ground lightning possible. What exactly triggers a lightning strike remains to be an open query.

When and where does lightning occur?

Lightning can occur at any time when the conditions for thunderstorms – moisture, atmospheric instabilityand a possibility for air to rise – can be found.

Lightning is seasonal: Most lightning strikes within the United States occur in June, July, or August. These three months alone typically account for greater than 60% of all lightning strikes for the 12 months. Lightning is least common within the winter, but can still occur. About 2% of all lightning strikes for the 12 months occur within the winter.

No state is proof against lightning strikes, but some states experience them more incessantly than others.

Texas, Florida, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Mississippi are sometimes among the many states with the best lightning strike rates, but greater than 30 states often experience a minimum of 1,000,000 in-cloud and cloud-to-ground lightning strikes every year.

How to guard yourself from lightning strikes

Nearly three-quarters of lightning deaths within the United States occur between June and AugustFortunately, it is simple to guard yourself from lightning.

Keep a watch on the weather forecast and reconsider your outdoor plans if thunderstorms are expected, especially in the event that they near the waterBeaches are dangerous because lightning tends to strike the best objects, and water is a superb conductor of electricity, so it's best to not be in it.

Remember: No place outside is protected during a thunderstorm, so get indoors during a storm. If you see the clouds gathering, hear thunder, or see lightning, it's time to rush indoors to guard yourself from lightning.

What is a lightning-safe place?

During a thunderstorm, there are two protected places: a sturdy constructing or a totally enclosed metal vehicle.

A solid constructing is a house, store, office constructing, or other structure that has 4 partitions and a roof and where the electrical wiring and plumbing is protected inside the partitions. If lightning strikes the constructing or near it, the electricity from the Lightning penetrates the partitions and never by you. Shelters, picnic shelters, and gazebos usually are not protected places.

If you might be in a totally enclosed metal vehicle during a thunderstorm and lightning strikes, the electricity will flow through the metal shell, ensuring your safety. It is not the rubber tires that protect you – this can be a common myth. Golf carts and convertibles don’t give you any protection from a lightning strike.

If you might be outdoors and lightning is approaching, move to a lightning-safe location, even whether it is far-off. Stay away from trees, especially tall and isolated ones, and don’t crouch in place – it doesn’t make you safer and just keeps you stuck within the storm longer.

Stay protected this summer

When making your summer plans, take into consideration lightning protection.

If someone nearby is struck by lightningLightning Victim don’t hold the electrical chargeSo call 911 and begin first aid immediately. 90% of lightning victims survivebut they need immediate medical attention.

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