First Alert Weather Academy: Lightning Safety

First Alert Weather Academy: Lightning Safety

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Now that Summer is here, more people have been spending more time outside. But this is also the time of the year we frequently see afternoon thunderstorms.

Whether you are enjoying the beach or your backyard this summer, keep an eye on the sky. Thunderstorms can form in less than 30 minutes. You might think a storm looks far away, but if you hear thunder you can be struck by lightning and I promise, it isn't something to mess with!

Lightning bolts are 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit, which is hotter than the surface of the sun! The air will then quickly cools and collapses back in on itself, after a strike, which is why we hear thunder. These strikes come down in the blink of an eye.

Although lightning is dangerous, it isn't uncommon. Annually, there are over 600,000 lightning strikes in Georgia and over 300,000 in South Carolina.

Georgia sees over 600,000 lightning strikes a year and South Carolina sees over 300,000!
Georgia sees over 600,000 lightning strikes a year and South Carolina sees over 300,000! (Source: National Lightning Detection Network)

Recently, the number of people who have been killed by lightning has trended down. We had 20 deaths in 2019, one of the lowest numbers in the past two decades. But there is still more we can do to be safe.

Deaths from lightning from the past 20 years have decreased sharply,=.
Deaths from lightning from the past 20 years have decreased sharply,=. (Source: National Lightning Safety Council)

Most injuries occur just before and after a thunderstorm is directly overhead of a victim.

Knowing the forecast for the day and making sure you plan ahead can go a long way in keeping you and your family safe.

in 2019, South Carolina had one death from lightning
in 2019, South Carolina had one death from lightning (Source: NOAA)

If you have boating or beach plans, try to go earlier in the day before afternoon thunderstorms typically develop. If you are out on the water, make sure you have a lightning detector and RADAR on board so you can get back to shore before a storm gets too close.

Lightning will take the path of least resistance to the ground, looking for the tallest object to connect with.

Lightning can also strike ten miles out from a storm, even if it isn't raining where you are! Once you hear thunder, head inside and wait thirty minutes after the last strike before heading back out.

Stopping your plans might be annoying, but it is much better than putting yourself or your family in harm's way.

More safety tips can be found here.

For this addition of the WTOC First Alert Weather Academy, I’m Meteorologist Andrew Gorton

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