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Lightning Safety and Education

9/19/2017 (Permalink)

Lightning is supersonic!

Lightning strikes the Earth approximately 100 times every second. At up to one billion volts, it is one of the most powerful forces of nature. Due to the high amount of thunder storms, Florida is sometimes called the lightning capital of the world. It's important for everyone living here in South Florida, or even just visiting, to know some basic lightning safety.

What is lightning?

Let's start by looking at what causes lightning. Lightning is caused when negatively charged air particles in the clouds shoot out to meet positively charged trees, lightning rods, ground, etc. The positively charged ground reaches back up to meet up with the negative air particles. When the positive and negative charges meet, the electricity in the air causes it to heat up to 30,000 kelvins (over 53,000 degrees Fahrenheit!). The surface of the sun, in comparison, is only 6,000 kelvins (a little over 10,000 Fahrenheit). The air heats up faster than the speed of sound, creating the crackling SNAP! of thunder. That's the sound of air breaking the sound barrier!

Lightning Safety Tips:

  • When lightning is in the area, seek shelter right away- indoors is the safest place for you
  • Consider installing a lightning protection system for your home- they are relatively inexpensive and can protect your electronics from lightning strikes
  • If there is no lightning protection system, stay away from corded electronics as they can carry the dangerous current for miles
  • Only fully-covered metal-framed cars are safe in a thunderstorm- convertibles, motorcycles, and fiberglass-based cars are not safe!
  • Stay out from under trees since lighting can still hurt you even if it's not a direct hit

Lightning Fun Facts:

  • Lightning strikes have a 10-30% mortality rate
  • There's a 1 in 3000 chance you will be struck by lightning in your lifetime
  • Lightning often strikes the same place twice- in fact, someone that has been struck once already is more likely to be struck again!
  • Lightning can strike 10-15 miles away from the thunderstorm under clear skies- these are called "bolts from the blue"
  • Wearing metal has no bearing on whether or not lightning strikes you
  • Lightning strikes 30 million different places on the ground in the US every year

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