Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Lightning The Underrated Killer!

Every second on Earth around 45 bolts of lightning occur. That amounts to a staggering 1.4 billion flashes of lightning per year. Of these total bolts about 20%actually hit the Earth’s surface meaning there are nearly 280 million cloud to ground or ground to cloud lightning sbolt from the blue,trikes each year. With a tremendous amount of electricity, an average of one terawatt or one trillion watts per bolt, and an extremely high temperature, around 50,000°F, it is no wonder lightning is such a great threat to life and property. The greatest know loss of life from one lightning strike was in Brescia, Italy in 1769 when 3000 people lost their lives because lightning struck a church containing 100 tons of gunpowder that resulted in a huge explosion destroying a sixth of the city.(source Wikipedia) To see how lightning strikes are distributed around the world, take a look at the image below. Notice there is a great concentration of lightning near the equatorial regions of the world where thunderstorms are very common. The lightning capital of the US would be the peninsula of Florida where 6 to 9 months of the year sea breeze fronts collide across the center of the State causing thunderstorms to develop most afternoons.

On average lightning kills 66 Americans each year. This number is greater than that caused from hurricanes and tornadoes. Here are some interesting statistics of lightning victims in 2007.

98% were outside

89% were male

30% were males between the ages of 20-25

25% were standing under a tree

25% occurred on or near the water

So what can we do to keep our selves safe during a thunderstorm? Some easy rules to follow would include finding indoor sturdy shelter during a thunderstorm. Stay away from windows. If you are on the golf course and hear thunder, return to the club house immediately. Standing in an open field holding a metal club makes you a lightning rod. If you are caught outdoors and cannot make it to a shelter the best advice is to crouch down, tuck your head, cover your ears, and only have your toes touching the ground. If you lay flat on the surface then you have a much better chance of being struck indirectly form lightning from an underground current. For more on lightning safety click here. When is it no longer safe to be outside? If you can hear thunder, your best bet is to move inside. To determine how far away lightning is from your location, count the seconds in between the lightning bolt and thunder. For every five seconds you count, a distance of one mile passes. So if you see a lightning bolt and 30 seconds later you hear the thunder, the lightning was approximately 6 miles away. Lightning has been known to strike and cause injury or death up to 10 miles away from the parent storm. This type of strike is known as a “Bolt From The Blue.” So staying inside 30 minutes after you hear the last clap of thunder is the best way to keep you and you family safe.

While lightning can be a beautiful sight, it is best to take precautions to insure your safety during natures underrated killer.

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