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Lightning Facts

Summer brings some of the year's best weather, but unfortunately this season also provides more lightning storms than any other.

Lightning is created when electrical charges develop inside a storm cloud. Within the cloud, positively charged atoms go to the top and negatively charged atoms go to the bottom. If the negatively charged atoms become too crowded, they "jump" to another part of the cloud, to a different cloud, or to the ground. This jump causes a huge spark of static electricity called lightning.

On average, about 40 million lightning strikes hit the ground each year in the United States, according to Accu-Weather. You can easily calculate how close lightning is striking during a storm. Because sound travels about a mile in five seconds, you can start counting when you see a lightning flash. If you hear thunder in five seconds, the lighting is a mile away; in ten seconds, it is two miles away.

While the odds of being struck by lightning are 709,260 to 1, according to the National Lightning Safety Institute, follow these tips to help ensure your safety:

  • Seek shelter in a house or large building (if you are in a car, stay there).

  • Stay away from water and flat places.

  • Get away from wire fences, clothes lines and metal.

  • Stay low to the ground.

  • Stand under a large group of trees, not just a lone tree.

  • Make sure you're not the tallest object around.

  • Don't use a phone unless it's an emergency.