Breakdown: Why the faintest sound of thunder can mean danger

Updated: May. 12, 2021 at 12:06 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) -Lightning causes an average of 80 deaths and 300 injuries each year. There are several types of lightning, like cloud to cloud lightning, which when lightning strikes go from two or more separate clouds. Another type is cloud to ground, when lightning from a cloud travels to the ground. Cloud to air lightning happens when negative charged air particles become attracted to positive charges within a cloud. This type of lightning can produce loud boomers but do not strike the ground. Anvil lightning is another type of lightning that originates from an anvil cloud or the top of a thunderstorm cloud. This type of lightning usually travels straight down to the ground.

Approximately 10% of people that are struck are actually killed. Around 90% of lightning victims survive, but nearly 25% of these survivors suffer from long term psychological or physiological trauma. Majority of lightning injuries and deaths about 92%, happen between May and September. Around 45% of the deaths and 80% of injuries with the timeframe of May through September happened between 10am and 7pm. About half of those who die from lightning was after the storm had passed.

Lightning can strike when the sky is not fully cloudy. This is referred to a bolt from the blue. It’s is a positive lightning bolt which originates within the updraft of the storm and travels horizontally for several miles, before striking the ground.

The air near a lightning strike is heated to 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit, which is hotter than the surface of the sun! Rapid heating and cooling of air around the lightning channel causes a shock wave that results in thunder. Thunder from a close lightning strike will have a very sharp crack or loud boom. Thunder from a distant strike will have a continuous rumble.

If you can hear thunder, you are close enough to be struck. Even if it is the faintest sound of thunder. Be sure to go indoors and wait 30 min after the last rumble of thunder.

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