Electrical Storm

An electrical storm isn't the most dangerous of disasters, but it can still cause a lot of damage to homes, start fires and even kill people in the right situations.

Consider the unexpected lightning storm that struck Southern California on July 27, 2014.

According to ABC News, "A rare lightning storm struck packed Venice Beach, Calif., Sunday, killing a 20-year-old man and injuring up to 12 others, one critically, after the same storm had struck a person on Catalina Island.

Firefighters said a bolt of lightning hit the water and the electrical current then traveled, hitting swimmers and surfers. "

Every second, about 100 lightning strikes occur somewhere in the Earth's atmosphere. Every year, between 100 and 200 people in the United States die as result of lightning strikes.

Whenever lightning strikes occur, whether from cloud to cloud or from cloud to ground, a lightning bolt and shock wave in the air are created at the exact same time. This is a release of electrical energy.

If that takes place two miles away from you, the light will get to you in 2/186000 seconds, since the speed of light is 186,000 miles per second. That means that the light gets to you in far less than one thousandth of a second, effectively instantly.

The shock wave in the air, which has the effect of a sound wave, takes around 10 seconds to travel the 10,560 feet of the two miles.

Types of Lightning

  • Forked lightning is lightning in which visible branches are present.

  • Streak lightning is a bolt that appears to be a single arc shaped line.

  • Ribbon lightning is viewed as parallel streaks of light. It is caused when
    winds separate the strokes of the bolt.

  • Chain lightning (also called Bead lightning) is characterized by a bolt that breaks into dotted lines as it fades.

  • Ball lightning's appearance is that of a fiery glowing ball (usually in red, yellow, or orange) which floats several feet above the ground. It can be as big as a grapefruit in size. It has also been reported to have been floating within houses and barns. It is unknown why ball lightning occurs and what it is made of.

  • Red sprites are characterized as a dim, reddish-colored burst. They only last for a couple thousandth of a second and can be numerous kilometers wide. They appear suddenly, most likely more than one at a time, and rise up to 90 kilometers above the cloud layer.

Check out this incredible video of Lightning Storms Around the World


Before an Electrical Storm

Watch for
Dark, towering clouds, distant lightning or thunder

To be prepared by having the following supplies on hand:

  • MagLite Flashlight
  • Weather Alert Radio with extra batteries
  • First Aid Kit
  • Emergency Food Bars
  • Emergency Survival Water Pouches
  • Essential Medications
  • Money and a credit card

Most lighting strikes happen during thunderstorms so stay alert for thunderstorm watches and/or warnings.

A severe thunderstorm watch is announced by the National Weather Service when thunderstorm conditions are likely to develop.

Locate a safe place to watch the skies and television, or listen to the radio for additional information.

During an Electrical Storm

If Indoors

  • Remove or secure objects outside that may become airborne or cause injuries.

  • Shutter windows securely and brace outside doors.

  • DO NOT use electrical appliances, phones, etc.

  • Avoid sources of water with metal pipes because lightning can flow through the pipes.

If Outdoors

  • Take shelter in a building or car

  • If no structure is available reach an open, low area and squat down. Do not stand near tall, lone trees or stand up in a flat open area.

  • Avoid tall structures like power lines, towers, tall trees, etc.

  • Stay away from natural lightning rods (e.g. metal equipment)

  • Stay away from bodies of water

  • If you are on an isolated, level area and feel your hair stand on end and/or a tingling feeling, bend forward and put your hands on your knees. Do not lay flat on the ground. When you feel this, it means lightning is about to strike.

In A Car

  • Pull on the shoulder of the road away from objects that may fall of your car.

  • Stay in your car and turn emergency lights on until the heavy rain and lightning subsides.

  • Avoid flooded roadways.

After an Electrical Storm

  • A person who has been struck by lightning may have a charge that can shock other people. If the victim is burned, provide first aid treatment and call the emergency service. Provide CPR if the person has stopped breathing or if their heart has stopped.

  • Report and avoid downed utility lines.

  • Drive only if necessary because debris and flooded roads can be hazardous.