Severe Weather Awareness Week is a chance to review weather procedures for the spring storm season. This week, HutchPost.com will review various types of severe weather and how you can be safe if such weather approaches. We’ll cover a different topic each day to keep you informed.
HUTCHINSON, Kan. — Severe Weather Awareness Week is a time to look at two weather phenomena that are certainly a part of Kansas life — lightning and hail.
Here are some facts and figures about lightning:
• A single lightning bolt is about 50,000 degrees, or five times hotter than the surface of the sun.
• A lightning bolt is anywhere from 1,000,000 to 1,000,000,000 volts and between 10,000 and 200,000 amps, or about 215 kWh (kilowatt hours).
• There are two types of lightning: negative strikes and positive strikes. Positive strikes are five times more powerful than negative strikes and positive charge flows instead of negative.
• The average lightning bolt could light a 100 watt light bulb non-stop for about three months.
• The average lightning bolt is six miles long, although the Kennedy Space Center has indicated some as long as 75 miles. The thickness of a lightning bolt is about the size of a silver dollar. It only looks bigger because it is so bright.
• The US Department of Energy says the speed of lightning is 93,000 miles per second, although the light produced travels at the speed of light (186,282 miles per second).
If lightning is possible in your area, here are some safety tips:
When thunder roars, go indoors. Find a safe, enclosed shelter.
The main lightning safety guide is the 30-30 rule. After you see lightning, start counting to 30. If you hear thunder before you reach 30, go indoors. Suspend activities for at least 30 minutes after the last clap of thunder.
If no shelter is available, crouch low, with as little of your body touching the ground as possible. Lightning causes electric currents along the top of the ground that can be deadly over 100 feet away.
Stay away from concrete floors or walls. Lightning can travel through any metal wires or bars in concrete walls or flooring.
Although you should move into a non-concrete structure if possible, being indoors does not automatically protect you from lightning. In fact, about one-third of lightning-strike injuries occur indoors. Avoid water during a thunderstorm. Lightning can travel through plumbing.
Avoid electronic equipment of all types. Lightning can travel through electrical systems and radio and television reception systems. You should also avoid corded phones. However, cordless or cellular phones are safe to use during a storm.
Lightning strikes may be rare, but they still happen and the risk of serious injury or death is severe. Take thunderstorms seriously. While hail is more associated with causing damage to cars and crops, it is still dangerous to human health.
Stay away from windows if indoors. If you are caught outdoors, substantial structures and highway overpasses offer the best hail protection. An awning, a gas station overhang, or even an unexposed side of a building can also offer protection.
While a vehicle can offer some protection, large hail can still be dangerous. If in a car, pull off the road — preferably under a bridge. Vehicles offer good protection from hail up to about golf ball size, but significant windshield and body damage can result with hail larger than golf balls. Carry a blanket in your car to protect you from shattered windshields.
Learn and follow these safety rules to keep yourself safe from lightning and hail.