Director:
Kim Robertson
Send E-Mail
Physical Address:
Law Enforcement Center
120 S. Third Street
Smithfield, NC 27577
 
Mailing Address:
P.O. Box 530
Smithfield, NC 27577
 
Phone: 919-989-5050
Fax: 919-989-5052
Thunderstorm/Lightning Facts
 
  • 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 this number by five.
  • North Carolina ranks third in the nation in number of lightning-related 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 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 as an invisible channel of electricity charged air moving from the cloud towards 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 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 by be moving in your direction.
  • Severe thunderstorms can produce damaging winds a strong as a weak tornado and can be life threatening.
  • A severe thunderstorm can produce hail three-fourths of an inch in diameter or larger. Large hail causes nearly $1 billion in damage to property and crops annually.
  • Large hailstorms fall at speeds faster than 100 m.p.h.