Lightning safety is an important topic during storm season in Alabama and across the United States. June 19th through the 25th is National Lightning Safety Awareness Week. During the week, the National Weather Service dedicates a day to a specific topic. Some topics include how lightning forms, lightning safety, and pet safety.

How Lightning Forms

Within the cloud of a storm, water particles and ice crystals collide causing positive and negative charges within the cloud. When the difference in these charges becomes too great, the insulating capacity of the air breaks down and there is a rapid discharge of electricity. There are two types of lightning strikes cloud-to-ground and cloud-to-cloud strikes. At the top of the cloud, there are positive charges and at the bottom of the cloud, there are negative charges. The positive strike that comes from the anvil of a storm is most likely to be the deadliest.

Lightning is hotter than the surface of the sun with temperatures reaching 50,000 degrees. Across the United States, there are around 25 million strikes a year killing around 20 individuals across and injuring hundreds of others. In 2021 there were eleven individuals lost their life from lightning strikes, the majority occuring at the beach or on a golf course. Lightning tends to strike the tallest objects in an open space, so it is important to avoid open fields and trees. The electrical currents associated with lightning can easily travel through water and anything made of metal.

National Weather Service Summer Safety Week!

The state of Alabama ranks ninth when it comes to lightning-related fatalities. From 1990 to the present, there have been a total of 36 lightning-related deaths and 168 lightning-related injuries. The three counties that had the most injuries were Mobile, Baldwin, & Jefferson counties. The majority of the individuals that sustained these injuries were outside at the time. Some were related to working outdoors while others occurred when they were near a metal object.

Lightning Safety

The most important thing you can do to protect yourself from lighting would be to inside a sturdy structure. Lightning can strike up to ten miles from the parent cell, this is why you will hear meteorologists say “when thunder roars go indoors.”

Lightning can easily travel through metal and water; it is also more likely to strike the highest point. During a thunderstorm, you will want to avoid using your dishwasher and taking a shower as the electric current can travel through the plumbing. Avoid trees and open spaces, like fields. Don’t forget about your furry friends! Make sure to bring them inside, a dog house is not a lightning-safe shelter!

The Heat Index and How It Impacts You

Lightning Related Information For Northern Alabama

Here in Northern Alabama, thunderstorms are no surprises during the Spring and Summer months. As noted above, in the state of Alabama there have been a total of 168 lightning-related injuries, between 1990 and 2022. Taking a look at the statistics for northern Alabama, Lauderdale, and Madison counties saw nine individuals injured by lightning.

In Alabama, of the 36 lightning-related deaths, 8 of those occurred in northern Alabama. Madison County saw the majority of these fatalities, with four individuals losing their life. Other counties in northern Alabama include Colbert, Jackson, Lawrence, & Marshall Counties.

As storms develop you can count on the Weather Authority to bring you the latest information! You can always download the LiveAlert 19 app to get weather alerts sent directly to your phone.