Become A South African Weather Guru

What can you tell me about lightning?

What are my chances of being struck by lightning?

Lightning occurs with every thunderstorm and must be expected as soon as thunderstorms form. Lightning results from the build-up and discharge of electrical energy between positively and negatively charged areas in the atmosphere and clouds. The most lightning occurs between clouds but it is the ground strikes that are dangerous. Your chances of being struck by lightning are estimated to be 1 in 350,000 but could be reduced by following lightning safety rules.

Precautions: Stay indoors during a lightning storm and if you are travelling, stay in the vehicle. When indoors stay away from windows, do not hold any metal object nor use any electrical appliance. Do not use the telephone. Do not take a bath or shower during the lightning storm. If you are caught in the open, seek shelter in a building. Avoid hilltops and do not shelter under lone trees nor in isolated sheds. Keep distance from fences, telephone or power lines and steel structures such as pylons and windmills. Do not swim during a lightning storm and seek shelter if you are in a boat. If you are in the open playing sport, seek shelter especially if you are fishing, or playing golf, soccer or rugby.

Note that lightning can occur when it is not raining. Lightning often strikes outside of heavy rain and may occur as far as 16 km away from any rainfall. Rubber-soled shoes and rubber tires provide NO protection from lightning. However, the steel frame of a hard-topped vehicle provides increased protection if you are not touching metal. Although you may be injured if lightning strikes your car, you are much safer inside a vehicle than outside.


Do people who have been struck by lightning carry an electrical charge?

Lightning-struck victims carry no electric charge and should be attended to immediately.


What is heat lightning?

Heat lightning is actually lightning from a thunderstorm too far away for thunder to be heard. However, the storm may be moving in your direction so beware.


How often does lightning occur over the earths surface at any one time?

Over the entire earth, estimates are that 100 lightning flashes occur each second.


How much electricity can one lightning bolt provide?

The resultant electric current from a single lightning bolt can provide enough energy to light a city of 200 000 people for one minute.


Can lightning strike the same place twice?

Yes, lightning can strike the same place twice. The Empire State Building in the USA gets hit about two dozen times per year! One bad storm saw lightning strike the building fifteen times in twenty minutes.

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