Weather Talk: Hail, Lightning, & Thunderstorms

Weather Talk

POSTED: Wednesday, April 16, 2014 - 10:15pm

UPDATED: Thursday, April 17, 2014 - 10:48am

Severe Weather Awareness Week: Wednesday, Severe Thunderstorms

Continuing with our Severe Weather Awareness Week, today we will discuss severe thunderstorms. The simple definition of a thunderstorm is that it contains lightning. The added word “severe” means that either hail greater than 1.00” (size of a quarter) is falling, or that there are wind gusts at or greater than 60 miles per hour.

Let’s talk about hail. The way hail develops is by having intense updrafts and freezing temperatures in the atmosphere. This allows water droplets to rise back into the storm, and as this happens, the droplets become frozen because of the very cold air aloft. If the updraft is strong, the small hail can grow into larger and bigger hail. The hail continues to form until it cannot be sustained by the updraft anymore, and then it begins to free-fall from the cloud toward the surface. Hail sizes will vary, depending on the storm intensity. Here is a list of different hail sizes and what type of objects they are similar to.

Lightning is very captivating to watch, but it can also be a tremendous danger too. Lightning can occur from cloud-to-cloud, but there are about 25 million cloud-to-ground lightning strikes each year—and these lightning strikes can prove deadly.

Based off a 30 year average through 2009, lightning has killed nearly 70 people and injured near 300. These deaths usually take place when outdoor activities usually occur often—in the spring and summer time. In fact, Texas ranked second for the total number of lightning deaths in the last 40 years—first place ranking, Florida. When lightning strikes, it usually will strike a person indirectly—via lightning striking nearby objects and the electricity is moving through the ground.

Lightning can strike up to 10 miles away from the base of a storm. Here are some safety tips to protect you when a thunderstorm takes place.

1. Follow the 30-for-30 rule for lightning. When you see lightning, count to 30. If you hear thunder before the count is complete, it is recommended to stay indoors for 30 minutes. Then, check the situation again by repeating the step. Just because the rain has cleared your area, it does not mean that the storm has cleared your area.

2. During a Severe Thunderstorm Warning, stay away from windows. Because of the potential for damaging winds, hail, and lightning, it is best to be away from windows, electrical equipment, and flowing water (a good conductor of electricity). If you are outside during a storm, seek shelter in a building. Avoid open spaces, bodies of water, metal objects, and higher terrain.

Tomorrow, we will talk the number one weather killer—flooding—and at the end of the week, we will discuss the importance of having a NOAA Weather Radio.

Continue to check back for more posts on the KETK Severe Weather Awareness Week. 

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