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Lightning, just as deadly as a hurricane? Lightning Awareness Week | Bradon's Barometer

Lightning killed three times as many people than hurricanes, on average, over the last decade.
Credit: WPMT FOX43

There's no doubt of the beauty of lightning. The negatively charged electrons in the atmosphere can be brought to light by man or by Mother Nature. But those views come with a deadly risk for those caught outside. 

You may have seen FOX43's Danielle Miller's story on Lightning Awareness Week. If not, you can see it here. But here are some more potentially "shocking" facts on lightning.

Over the last ten years, lightning has killed an average of 24 Americans per year. Hurricanes? Eight.

Lump that number into the 30-year average, the average for lightning jumps to 39. However, the number for hurricanes jumps to a higher 46. 

But, with data back from 1940, the National Weather Service estimates 9,422 American lightning deaths total, compared to a hurricane death toll of 3,386.

But, we're getting into semantics here. They're both deadly, it's Lightning Awareness Week -- so let's talk lightning!

Credit: WPMT FOX43
These are the three main types of lightning.

There are three basic types of lightning (that then could be broken down even further), but we'll keep it simple: cloud-to-cloud, cloud-to-ground and cloud-to-air.

Side note: heat lightning isn't an actual thing. It's just lightning from a thunderstorm too far away to be heard. (Just had to say it.)

Cloud-to-cloud is the most common type that happens completely within the clouds themselves. You look up into the air, you see it either 'intra-cloud' within itself or jumping between clouds.

Cloud-to-ground is where we really talk about a serious fatality risk. Cloud-to-ground is also a bit of a misnomer, because lightning can also start from the ground! 

Credit: National Weather Service
An example of cloud-to-ground lightning.

There are two ways these occur. One, a strike can naturally initiate downward, from the cloud, because of normal electrification of the environment.

The second way, ground-to-cloud, needs a trigger point where it then pushes skyward. This is common on tall towers and skyscrapers.

The National Weather Service and the FOX43 Weather Team remind you, "when it roars, head indoors." Here's some more lightning facts as to why.

A lightning strike can be up to 5x hotter than the surface of the Sun.

The energy from one lightning flash could light a 100 watt bulb for more than three months, according to NWS.

Credit: WPMT FOX43
On average, heat kills more Americans every year than lightning or hurricanes combined.

Also according to the NWS, 92% of lightning deaths occur between May and September. 45% of those and 80% of injuries happened between 10AM and 7PM.

Lightning can strike more than 10 miles away from the storm. More than half of deaths occur after the storm passed.

Until next time,

-Chief Meteorologist Bradon Long

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