STATEWIDE–There are an average of 500,000 cloud-to-ground lightning strikes in Indiana per year. That’s just one of the reasons the National Weather Service in Indianapolis is telling you to be on the lookout for lightning, especially this time of year.
This week is National Lightning Safety Week
“It’s a pretty frequent occurrence in Indiana,” says Crystal Petit, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Indianapolis. “If you can see lightning or hear thunder, you’re close enough to be struck and you need to get somewhere inside. You need to be inside a sturdy shelter at that point. Nowhere outside is safe during a lightning storm.”
Petit also says your car is a safe place to go if you are outside and can’t make it to a building. There are three primary types of lightning: cloud-to-ground, cloud-to-air, and cloud-to-cloud.
Cloud-to-air lightning is described by the National Weather Service as “lightning that occurs when the air around a positively charged cloud top reaches out to the negatively charged air around it. Cloud-to-cloud lightning is the type of lightning as “lightning that occurs between two or more separate clouds.” With cloud-to-ground lightning, the rapid discharge of lightning is a channel of negative charge that is attracted to the positively charged ground.
“The dangerous one for us is cloud-to-ground. Those can create injury to people and cause power outages,” says WISH-TV meteorologist Marcus Bailey.
You may have heard the expression “heat lightning.”
“There is no such thing as heat lightning. Heat isn’t going to create lightning. It’s thunderstorms. That is lightning that’s going cloud-to-cloud,” says Bailey.
Bailey says he has seen lots of examples from people who have been taken “direct” strikes from lightning and “indirect” strikes.
“If you take a direct strike from lightning, it would be the equivalent of taking a jolt of electricity from a power line. The electricity is going to find a source that is going to likely be a major organ inside your organ and kill you quickly. Some people have survived, though. Some of their reasons for survival have been because they have been wearing some kind of metal object that’s allowed that lightning bolt to escape that body like a watch, wedding ring, or earrings,” says Bailey.
When it comes to “indirect lightning strikes,” Bailey says those are strikes where people are simply near one.
“Maybe they’ve been nearby a tree that’s been struck by lightning and that electricity was spread through the ground. Or even if the ground is struck by lightning, that electricity can spread through the ground. Indirectly, you can get injured because lightning can be that powerful,” says Bailey.