Severe Weather Preparedness: Lightning

Published: Mar. 8, 2023 at 1:51 PM CST
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DAVENPORT, Iowa (KWQC) - It is Severe Weather Preparedness week in the state of Illinois. Lightning strikes the Earth 8.6 million times per day, worldwide.

Here in the United States, there are about 20 million lightning strikes per year.

The temperature of lightning is hotter than the surface of the sun, sitting at 50,000°F, which is why it is so important to stay indoors and away from windows during a thunderstorms.

Here is the science behind lightning.

When a thunderstorm is overhead, objects on the ground become positively charged, with negatively charged electrons within the thunderstorm cloud. The electrons begin zigzagging away from the cloud. This is a process known as a “stepped leader.”

As the leader gets closer to the ground, it draws the positive charge from the ground upward. As the negative charge and positive charge merge, and electrical current flows.

This leads to what we see: a flash of lightning. That flash of lightning travels about 60,000 miles per second. That bolt of lightning is only about one to two inches wide.

In real time, the process of a lightning strike takes less than a second. Once you see a flash of lightning, you will hear the sound of thunder several seconds later because the speed of light is faster than the speed of sound.

Lightning kills and average of 28 people each year.

The last five years have had a lower amount of deaths from lightning strikes.

Over the last 10 years, there have been 222 deaths from lightning strikes.

About 77% of those deaths were male, while 23% were female.

Bottom line to stay safe: When thunder roars, go indoors.

Click here for the latest First Alert Forecast.