WSAV NOW WEATHER: Lightning load path

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – We are now in a typical summer pattern of tracking daily thunderstorms with lightning as the main threat. However, this is not part of the criteria for a storm to become severe. With so many outdoor activities here (swimming, enjoying the beach and pool, strolling in the park, playing golf) that you can’t risk waiting for a storm to turn violent to take shelter.

If you hear thunder you’re in danger

Lightning creates thunder. The heat from lightning causes the atmosphere to expand. The sound of this expansion is thunder. In order for thunderstorms to be created, you need lightning to create that spark. Lightning can occur up to 10 to 15 miles from the main storm cell. If you still hear thunder, even before or after it rains, you may still be struck by lightning.

Lightning tries to find the path of least resistance to the ground. Those who are outdoors before, during and after a storm offer this path and are sometimes in the worst position during a storm.

Just like a magnet, opposite charges attract. In thunderstorms there are both negative and positive charges. It ranges from positive charges at the top of the cloud to negative charges in the middle to a small amount of positive charges at the bottom. The small amount of positive charges at the bottom of the cloud tries to balance the negative charges in the middle. When there is not an equal amount of opposite charges, the negative charges emerge from the bottom of the cloud to find that equal amount.

The negatively charged channel extends down to the ground to find an equal amount of positive charges. The safety concern is that lightning doesn’t travel in a straight line, which means it won’t always hit the tallest object around you. It can hit shorter objects. Cloud-to-ground lightning is the most dangerous type of lightning.

If you’re stuck outside without a safe place and hear thunder in the distance, stay low to the ground. This will help reduce your chances of getting hit. If you are not in a sturdy building, your car can act as a safe place. As soon as you hear thunder, enter as fast as you can. After the thunderstorm has passed, wait 30 minutes after the last roar of thunder to be sure it is safe to return outside.

About Timothy Cheatham

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