Beware of summer lightning storms


It’s July; the weather forecast predicts afternoon storms and it appears that our monsoon season has started right on schedule.

Our afternoon rains and moisture are always welcome this time of year, but our storms are often accompanied by lightning; both beautiful and potentially deadly. If you are sitting in the safety of your living room, the show can be spectacular. If you are enjoying the outdoors when you see a storm move in, you should take precautions.

The easiest way to avoid the danger of lightning storms is to plan your day so you are outside early in the day and get out of the high country before mid afternoon, when the storms are most likely to move in. If you are caught when a storm starts, the following safety information from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration might be helpful.

All thunderstorms produce lightning, by definition. If you can hear thunder, you are close enough to the storm to be struck. Move inside if at all possible. It doesn’t have to be raining; lightning can strike 10 to 15 miles away from the rain portion of the storm. These lightning strikes come out of the upper portions of the thunderstorm cloud, which extends 5 to 10 miles into the atmosphere.

In general, lightning will travel the easiest route from the cloud to ground, which means that it often strikes the tallest object. Therefore, a simple rule is to not make yourself the tallest object or stand near the tallest object in your immediate surroundings. For instance, do not stand in an open field, on a beach or on a hilltop. Do not stand under an isolated or large tree or near a pole, and do not stay out on a boat. If you are in a forest, you should seek shelter in a low area under a thick growth of small trees. If you are in a group of people, spread out, keeping several yards apart from each other.

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