Thunder & Lightning

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Severe Thunderstorms

Florida has more thunderstorms than any other area of the United States. Thunderstorms affect relatively small areas when compared to hurricanes, however they occur much more frequently. The typical thunderstorm is 15 miles in diameter and lasts an average of 30 minutes. Nearly 1,800 thunderstorms are occurring at any moment around the world.

What causes thunder?

An average lightning strike produces currents of 30,000 amperes, but could approach 30 million volts at 100,000 amperes. The rapid rise in current produces temperatures in the lightning channel of more than 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit which causes the air in the channel to expand. The expanding air cools, then contracts. Rapid expansion and contraction of the air around lightning occurs as molecules move back and forth, making sound waves we hear as thunder.

What is lightning?

As thunderstorms develop, interactions of charged particles produce an intense electrical field within a cloud. A large positive charge is usually concentrated in the frozen upper layers of the cloud and a large negative charge, along with a smaller positive area, is found in the lower portions.

What causes lightning?

There are different kinds of lightning: within the clouds, between the clouds, from clouds to clear air, and from cloud to ground.

The lightning that concerns people the most is cloud to ground. These flashes start fires, splinter trees, knock out electrical power and can even kill people. It is estimated that cloud to ground lightning strikes represent only about 20 percent of all lightning strikes.

Lightning safety tips

Watch for signs of an approaching storm. If outside, seek shelter inside a building or a vehicle. Never seek shelter under trees and try to avoid using small sheds. If caught outdoors and no shelter is near, your best protection is to crouch in the open, keeping twice as far away from trees as they are high. If you are indoors durning a lighting storm, stay there and do not venture outside unless absolutely necessary. Stay away from open doors and windows, fireplaces, stoves, metal pipes, sinks and electrical devices. Do not take a bath or shower during a storm.

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