Be Prepared - Lightning Safety
Animated Lightning Animated Lightning


Lightning Facts and Preventive Actions

Skymont Scout Reservation, Cherokee Area Council, Boy Scouts of America

Take time NOW to learn and understand the hazards of lightning, and the basic safety rules.

Lightning occurs with all Thunderstorms, in the storm area and out in front of the storm. It causes the thunder we hear. If you can hear thunder before the storm, you are close enough to the storm to be struck by lightning.

Lightning Facts:
  • Causes an average of 93 fatalities in the USA each year, and over 300 serious injuries.
  • Causes several hundred million dollars in damage to property and forests each year.
  • Results from the buildup and discharge of electrical energy between negatively charged areas (bottom of cloud) and positively charged areas (items on earth). It is static electricity on a huge scale.
  • Your chances of being struck by lightning are estimated to be 1 in 600,000 each year, but that can be greatly reduced by knowing and following lightning safety rules.
  • A lightning flash is estimated to carry 30,000 to 300,000 Amps. at 15 million to 125 million Volts, for less than 1 second. This is why such awesome and often bizarre stories are told of the results.
  • The air near a flash is heated to 50,000F - 5 times hotter than the surface of the sun. The rapid heating and cooling of this air causes the shock wave we hear as thunder.
  • Most lightning casualties occur in the summer months, during afternoon or early evening, when people are caught outdoors.
  • A strike begins as channels of negatively charged air (invisible "leaders") move downward from the cloud toward the ground. When one channel nears an object on the ground, a powerful surge of positively charged particles (skin and hair tingle) moves upward toward the cloud, connects, and produces the flash. Three or four strikes may occur within one-tenth of a second, makes the flash appear to flicker.
  • To estimate the distance in miles between you and the lightning, count the seconds between the flash and the sound of the thunder, and divide by five.
  • In recent years, people have been killed by lightning while boating, fishing in a boat, swimming, golfing, bike riding, standing under a tree, riding on a lawnmower, talking on the telephone, loading a truck, playing soccer, and mountain climbing.

This web page was written by Jack Wright,
Skymont Scout Reservation, Chattanooga, Tennessee
with web authoring assistance by Michael F. Bowman,

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