Facts About Lightning – Be Wary on 4th July

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Lightning strikes every second

I think it is safe to say that virtually all of us have at one time or another marvelled at the awesome vision of a lightning storm. Our psyche is wooed by a combination of a giant magician’s show and the force of nature. It is estimated that, every second around the world, there are between 50 and 100 lightning strikes.

From a few more or less credible sources, I thought I would provide some interesting facts on lightning. According to a National Geographic article in 2004, “[t]he odds of becoming a lightning victim in the U.S. in any one year is 1 in 700,000. The odds of being struck in your lifetime is 1 in 3,000.” And, for 10% of those struck by lightning, the impact is fatal. For 70%, the impact causes serious long term damage. So, the question is how to avoid it, especially in the summer months when the number of lightning deaths peaks (because people are outdoors)? In fact, the 4th July holiday in the US is a particularly vulnerable date as far as lightning accidents is concerned.

Granny’s Tales

Wearing rubber soled shoes won’t help protect you. Standing under a tree is the worst idea you can have. Followed closely after by swimming in a pool: water is a great conductor of electricity and your head becomes the lightning rod. And, once you are inside, get off the phone at home during lightning storms. As the Nat Geo articles writes, “[p]hone use is the leading cause of indoor lightning injuries in the United States.” Unfortunately, typing on the computer is not advised either as, regardless of any surge protector, you are better off unplugging and turning off electronic equipment.

From Stormwise, I pulled this statement: ” Most lightning strikes average 2 to 3 miles long and carry a current of 10,000 Amps at 100 million Volts.”

I have extracted another couple of “facts” that I found of note from the post carrying this photo:

  • “…lightning is capable of generating a temperature of twenty seven thousand degrees Fahrenheit and travel twenty thousand miles per second.”
  • “The most powerful lightning strike ever recorded in the United States struck the Cathedral of Learning of the University of Pittsburgh on July 31, 1947. The bolt discharged approximately three hundred forty five thousand (345,000) amps. This was enough current to light six hundred thousand (600,000) 60W light bulbs for the duration of the flash which is only thirty five millionths of a second.” Of course, that is not a very long time.

And, to finish, the most spectacular lightning storm I ever saw was during a rainless thunder storm in barren and arid land on the road going from Antalya to Isparta (Turkey). The lightning was an extremely vivid red. There is apparently a form of “red” lightning called “Red Sprite lightning” which, according to stormwise, “is a newly-discovered type of lightning that zaps between the 40 mile span between the tops of severe storm clouds to the lower ionosphere “D” layer. Red Sprite Lightning looks like a giant “blood-red”colored jellyfish having light-blue tentacles. Red Sprite Lightning creates extremely powerful radio emissions from 1000 Hz through VHF.” If that is what we saw in Turkey, then it was awfully impressive. P.S. The lightning was fully red (the photo here is not mine, nor is it truly red lightning).

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