Dangers of Lightning - KTEN.com - No One Gets You Closer

Dangers of Lightning

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TEXOMA -- One of weather's most deadly forces, lightning.  Most people don't think about how dangerous it can be until it actually affects them.

That is exactly how we all feel here at KTEN, after a lightning strike hit our studio the night of March 23rd, damaging hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of equipment, and leaving us off-air for almost an entire week.

Most of us under-rate how deadly lightning can be, by going outside in a normal thunderstorm because, I mean come on, what are the chances of a lightning strike hitting me?

All of us here at KTEN, we know first-hand the damage lightning can cause.  We want you aware of the dangers of lightning too.

On average lightning strikes the Earth about 100 times every single second. But what exactly is lightning?

Dr. David Baker, a physics professor at Austin College, explains it is similar in nature to static electricity we may feel throughout winter.

"Lightning is basically static electricity, a discharge of it. Just like you walk across the carpet on a winter's day and you scuff up electrons and then you touch the doorknob and you get a spark. Lightning behaves the exact same way."

There are many different types of lightning but the cloud to ground lightning is the most dangerous. It forms when hail stones within a cloud scrap against each other stealing electrons. This creates a negative charge of electricity at the bottom of the cloud. A positive charge is built up at the surface. After the opposite charges are strong enough, they are attracted to one another and you see the discharge of electricity as a flash of lightning.

And lightning is much more powerful than an average shock of static electricity we might feel.

"Lightning has an incredible amount of voltage over 100 million volts but even more importantly is the amperage. Its the current it goes through. And so we are talking 10, 20 thousand, 30 thousand or more amperage or amps that go through a typical lightning strike," explains Dr. Baker.

Just to give you an idea, on average only 100 amps is the max for a breaker box on a home.  

VAISALA is a national lightning detection network out of Tucson, Arizona. They recorded the lightning flash that hit our television station to be that of three hundred and eighty-six thousand amps well over that of a typical strike.  

"When we look at lightning, cloud to ground lightning flashes over long period we can make an estimate that the strength of this cloud to ground stroke was one in one hundred thousand," explains Meteorologist Ron Holle with VAISALA.

"There's enough power in a single lightning bolt to power the entire United States for a whole year. That's a lot of energy.  And just imagine that energy zapping through a television station or yourself," says Dr. Baker.

Bonded, is a lightning protection company located in north Texas. They install lightning rods on homes and commercial buildings to help protect from lightning disasters.

"Lightning is one of the most destructive forces of nature, it is actually second to that of floods. Unfortunately a lot of times people don't call for lightning protection until their neighbor has had an issue or they've had an issue. Lightning protection is usually an after-thought," explains Heath Howe Director of Business Development for Bonded.

Our television station's tower has a lightning rod installed, however the particular flash of lightning went through our tower camera.

Lightning, it is unpredictable and it is underrated.

"So lightning is something that needs to be treated very seriously; the amount of current that flows through a lightning bolt can easily kill you. Its many thousand times more than what a human heart can handle," explains Dr. Baker.

Lightning is a powerful force of nature, not to be taken lightly.

Remember the saying "When Thunder Roars Go Indoors."  It can save your life.

For more information on how to protect yourself from lightning please go to:

http://www.lightningsafety.noaa.gov/