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Lightning and Thunderstorms

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Thunderstorms are the most common types of storms. Thunder itself, although frightening, is not dangerous. It is the lightning that causes the problems. Lightning and thunder occur together, however we hear the thunder after we see the lightning. Sound waves travel about one mile in five seconds, while light travels at more than 186,000 miles per second. Therefore, lightning is seen immediately when it occurs, and thunder is heard a little later. The different sounds of thunder are caused by the different types of lightning.

Major forms of lightning include forked lightning, streak lightning, ribbon lightning, and chain lightning. There are also rare forms of lightning such as ball lightning, red sprites, blue jets, and elves that have been documented.

Safety Tips: Since lightning can be very dangerous and it has killed and maimed many people, it is important for us to follow safety measures and protect ourselves and property. During a storm stay indoors, however if you are caught outside in a severe storm, never stand under any tall objects such as trees. It is better to lay down in an open field away from any surrounding tall objects. Avoid any large bodies of water and if you are swimming, leave the water immediately.

Stay away from metal objects such as bicycles and tractors. Never play golf or go fishing during a storm. If your are outside playing any games with metal gear, be sure to take it off if a storm starts. If you are driving a car during a thunderstorm stay in the car as this is though to be a safe place, however avoid touching any metal in the car. Do not use the telephone since lightning might strike the tall telephone poles. Avoid using any electrical equipment such as hair driers, electric razors, microwave ovens, or washers et cetera.

Today, most tall buildings are protected by lightning rods. They were first introduced by Benjamin Franklin in 1749. These are metal rods which are placed on top of the highest, most exposed part of the building. A wire leads from the rod and is buried underground away from the building. This attracts the lightning and conducts its discharge away from the building and into the ground.


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