Severe Weather Awareness Week: How lightning forms and how to stay safe

Last year, over two million lightning strikes occurred in the Palmetto State.
Published: Mar. 9, 2023 at 6:12 PM EST
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MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) - According to the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration or NOAA, on average, there are 40 million lightning strikes across the US every year.

Last year, over two million lightning strikes occurred in the Palmetto State.

The creation of lightning starts when warm air is forced upwards, that’s how we get storm clouds. When forces within the storm clouds get powerful enough, it allows water droplets and ice particles to collide. This creates an electrical charge that’s both positive and negative.

What creates lightning
What creates lightning(WMBF)

When they’re enough, the charges actually split within the clouds.

The positive charges go toward the top of the cloud while the negative charges go toward the bottom of the cloud.

This creates an imbalance of energy and when the negative charges in the cloud get strong enough, it wants to connect to a positive charge and that creates the lightning we see with our own eyes.

Types of lightning
Types of lightning(WMBF)

Now the most common form of lightning is intracloud. But there’s lightning that can go from the cloud to ground, which is the most dangerous lightning because this can occur miles away and is extremely hard to predict.

According to NOAA, since 2014 there have been more than 200 people have been killed by lightning. Most of them occur while fishing or at the beach.

Lightning fatalities since 2014-2022
Lightning fatalities since 2014-2022(WMBF)

So if you’re outside and you hear thunder, stop what you’re doing.

Find a building or vehicle, get inside and wait out the storm until you can’t hear any more thunder.

But if you do find yourself outside and away from any shelter, you have to find yourself far away from tall objects like trees, avoid open fields and bridges.

Bure to stay away from water, wet items and metal objects such as fences and poles. These items do not attract lightning but can conduct electricity.

The best thing for you to remember about lightning safety is “When Thunder Roars Get Indoors.”