Severe Weather Awareness Week: Lightning

6 Storm Team Weather School

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Today we’re going to be discussing lightning.  Lightning can strike miles away from the parent thunderstorm, that’s why when you hear the slogan “When thunder roars, Go indoors!” you want to be inside, you don’t want to be outside. And especially you don’t want to be under a tree.

Lightning always comes before the thunder. The lightning heats the air and when you hear that explosion, that’s going to be the thunder. That always follows lightning.

Another fact about lightning — it’s very very hot. In fact it’s hotter than the surface of the sun. A strike of lightning is 50,000°F, so that’s another reason why in the summertime or other times, when you see a thunderstorm you see a fire created, especially for wildfires during the summer months, because the lightning is so hot.

Another fact about lightning is that Tennessee ranks in the top 10 states across the United States for lightning fatalities, and that dates back to 1959. So again, lightning is certainly a killer. We didn’t have any fatalities in Tennessee in 2019 nor did we have any in 2020 either. 

Now when you hear the topic of a severe thunderstorm watch versus a severe thunderstorm warning, let’s talk about what that means. A severe thunderstorm watch means that the conditions are favorable that a thunderstorm may happen, it’s possible, over the course of the day. But it does not mean it’s imminent.

When you do hear that a severe thunderstorm warning has been issued that’s when you want to go indoors. That means that it’s happening or it’s going to happen or has already occurred. So again that’s the difference between a watch and also a severe thunderstorm warning.

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