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Weather - When Lightning Strikes

Here's a scary thought: At any given moment there are 2,000 thunderstorms. And every second, lightning strikes 100 times. That means lightning strikes 8 million times per day. You'd think that means there must be tons of people getting zapped everday right? Nah - your chances of being struck by lightning in the US are only 1 in 600,000. But if you live in Florida your chances are higher because the Mickey Mouse's home state is the lightning capital of the US.

Lightning comes from the buildup and release of electrical energy between positively and negatively charged areas. Lightning usually happens inside a cloud or between a cloud and the ground. The good thing about lightning is that it helps nature by putting nitrogen in the ground for plants to use.

A thunderstorm is a storm with lightning and thunder, usually with gusty winds, heavy rain and sometimes hail. All thunderstorms are dangerous, causing about 93 deaths a year and millions in property damage. About 10% of the thunderstorms that happen each year in the US are severe. A thunderstorm is considered severe if it produces hail at least 3/4 inch in diameter (that's about size of a large marble), winds more than 58mph or tornadoes.

Now you must know by now that standing out in an open field during a lightning storm is bad news. Lightning will strike the highest thing on a flat surface - that could be you. And although a lot of surfers like to hang-ten during a storm - to catch the wicked waves it creates - that too is a death wish. Lightning is attracted to water and if you're surfing it'll be attracted to you. Many surfers die because of lightning strikes.

Myths and Facts

Myth: If it is not raining, then there is no danger from lightning.
Fact: Lightning often strikes away from the heavy rain even up to 10 miles away from the thunderstorm cloud!

Myth: The rubber soles of shoes or rubber tires on a car will protect you from being struck by lightning.
Fact: Rubber soled shoes and rubber tires provide no protection from lightning. However, the steel frame of a hard-topped car offers better protection if you are not touching any interior metal objects. Even if you are hit, it is safer inside a car than outside. Convertibles offer no protection from lightning even if the top is "up".

Myth: People struck by lightning carry an electrical charge and should not be touched.
Fact: People who have been struck by lightning carry no electrical charge and should be given first aid treatment immediately!

Myth: "Heat lightning" occurs after very hot summer days and poses no threat.
Fact: Heat lightning is actually from a thunderstorm, which is occurring over the horizon and is too far away for thunder to be heard. Make sure the storm isn't heading your way.

Do you have a story about lightning you would like to share with us? Have you had a personal experience or know someone who has? Let us know about it.

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