Thunderstorms are most common in the spring and summer, but can occur anytime during the year.
The typical thunderstorm is 15 miles in diameter and lasts an average of 30 minutes. Nearly 1,800 thunderstorms are occurring at any moment around the world.
All thunderstorms produce lightning. Lightning often strikes outside of heavy rain and may occur as far as 10 miles away from any rainfall.
Because light travels so much faster than sound, lightning flashes can be seen long before the resulting thunder is heard. To estimate the number of miles you are from a thunderstorm, count the number of seconds between a flash of lightning and the next clap of thunder, then divide that number by 5.
North Carolina ranks third in the nation in number of lightning-caused deaths, and fourth in lightning-related injuries.
From 1959 through 1997, lightning caused 169 deaths in North Carolina: 36 in open places or ballparks; 25 under trees; 22 while boating, fishing, or other water-related activity; 8 on golf courses; 1 while using the telephone; and 71 at various other and unknown locations.
From 1959 through 1997, there were 550 reported lightning related injuries. Lightning-strike victims carry no electrical charge and should be attended to immediately.
Lightning results from the buildup and discharge of electrical energy between positively and negatively charged areas. The action of rising and descending air within a thunderstorm separates positive and negative charges.
Most lightning occurs within the cloud or between cloud and ground. A cloud-to-ground lightning strike begins with an invisible channel of electricity charged air moving from the cloud toward the ground. When one channel nears an object on the ground, a powerful surge of electricity travels from the ground upward to the cloud, producing the visible lightning strike.
The average flash of lightning could light a 100-watt light bulb for more than three months.
The air near a lightning strike is heated to 50,000 degrees F -- hotter than the surface of the sun. The rapid heating and cooling of the air near the lightning channel causes a shock wave that results in thunder.
"Heat Lightning" actually is lightning from a thunderstorm too far away for thunder to be heard. However, the storm may be moving in YOUR direction.
Severe thunderstorms can produce damaging winds as strong as a weak tornado and can be life threatening.
A Severe thunderstorm can produce hail three-fourths of an inch in diameter or more. Large hail causes nearly $1 billion in damage to property and crops annually.
Large hailstones fall at speeds faster than 100 m.p.h.