Summer is known as storm season. Tornadoes and hurricanes are covered extensively throughout the summer seasons. However, it is thunderstorms that we see the most of. These can be as damaging as any other storm due to its prevalence. Lightning is said to hit the earth about 100 times per second or 8.6 million times a day resulting in 20 million ground strikes in 100,000 thunderstorms per year. Lightning is caused by a negative charge at the base of a cloud creating an electrical surge with a positive charge at the earth’s surface creating a strike. The electrical surge can be about 5 miles long and can reach a temperature of 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

There have been 19,814 property-damage reports due to lightning in the United States from 1959-1994 with Pennsylvania reporting on the largest number of damaging strikes. The most vulnerable targets are large, isolated structures, especially metal. However, lightning does not seek out the tallest point but the best conductor in which to strike. This is why people out in the open during a thunderstorm are told to crouch low on the ground until the storm passes.

Lightning strikes are deadly as well, making it the third deadliest weather related death besides flash flooding and river floods. Between 1959 and 1994, there were 3,239 deaths related to lightning strikes and 9,818 injuries. Florida has the most casualties, twice as many as any other state in the country. Despite this, only 20 percent of victims die from their injuries, and lightning deaths have decreased by 30 percent in 35 years. This may be because of better warning systems and awareness. Men make up 84 percent of all lightning strike deaths and 82 percent of injuries. Up to 70 percent of survivors are affected by their injuries, especially brain-related injuries including cardio-pulmonary injuries, neurologic/psychiatric injuries, burns and cutaneous marking, blunt traumas, and auditory and ocular injuries. These are lasting effects from a shock that lasts only a few milliseconds.

For related articles visit http://www.weather.com/ready/lightning/myths.html and http://science.nasa.gov/newhome/headlines/essd18jun99_1.htm.

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