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Thunderstorm and Lightning

All thunderstorms are dangerous. Every thunderstorm produces lightning. Thunderstorms affect relatively small areas when compared with hurricanes and winter storms. The typical thunderstorm is 15 miles in diameter and lasts an average of 30 minutes. Nearly 1,800 thunderstorms are occurring at any moment around the world. That’s 16 million a year!


Despite their small size, all thunderstorms are dangerous. Every thunderstorm produces lightning, which kills more people each year than tornadoes. Heavy rain from thunderstorms can lead to flash flooding. Strong winds, hail, and tornadoes are also dangers associated with some thunderstorms.

Of the estimated 100,000 thunderstorms that occur each year in the United States, only about 10 percent are classified as severe. Your National Weather Service considers a thunderstorm severe if it produces hail at least 3/4-inch in diameter, wind 58 mph or higher, or tornadoes.​


Lightning results from the buildup and discharge of electrical energy between positively and negatively charged areas. The average flash could light a 100-watt bulb for more than 3 months. Most lightning occurs within the cloud or between the cloud and ground.

Most lightning deaths and injuries occur when people are caught outdoors. The air near a lightning strike is heated to 50,000°F- hotter than the surface of the sun! The rapid heating and cooling of air near the lightning channel cause a shock wave that results in thunder.

In recent years, people have been killed by lightning while:
  • Swimming

  • Golfing

  • Bike riding

  • Standing under a tree

  • Riding a lawnmower

  • Talking on the phone

  • Loading a truck

  • Playing soccer

  • Fishing in a boat

  • Mountain climbing

  • Working outdoors

Before the storm
  • Know the County you live in and the names of the towns and communities near you.

  • Check the weather forecast before leaving for outdoors activities.

  • Watch for signs of approaching storm.

  • If a storm is approaching, monitor NOAA Radio or local TV and radio.

  • Postpone outdoor activities if the thunderstorm is imminent. This is the best way to stay safe.

  • Check on those who have trouble taking shelter if severe weather threatens.

Are you ready?

If you can hear thunder, you are close enough to the storm to be struck by lightning. Go to safe shelter immediately.

  • Move to a sturdy building or car. Do not take shelter in small sheds, under isolated trees, or in convertible automobiles.

  • If lightning is occurring and a sturdy shelter is not available, get inside a hard top automobile and keep windows up.

  • Get out of boats and away from water.

  • Telephone lines and metal pipes can conduct electricity. Unplug appliances not necessary for obtaining weather information. Avoid using the telephone or any electrical appliances. Use phones ONLY in an emergency.

  • Do not take a bath or shower.

  • Turn off air conditioners. Power surges from lightning can overload the compressors.

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