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.