WEST VIRGINIA (WVNS) — In 2021 more than 400 people were injured by lightning in the U.S.. As West Virginia Severe Weather Awareness Week continues the Stormtracker 59 team dives into the shockingly raw power of lightning with tips on how to keep your family safe.

Before becoming your meteorologist, Meteorologist Bradley Wells spent the last decade as a storm chaser and lightning photographer

“There is simply something special about the power of lightning. A force of nature I learned quickly should be respected and yes, even feared, if just a little.”

Stormtracker 59 Meteorologist Bradley Wells

Lightning is a result of large electrical buildup in the atmosphere. Negatively charged particles in the atmosphere interact and search out positively charged particles. When enough both build up in a thunderstorm and meet up, a stunning spark is released. These sparks can arc from cloud to cloud, cloud to ground, and even ground to cloud

Regardless of where the lightning comes from, when it moves into your area the safest place to be is of course indoors. Chief Meteorologist Heidi Moore has a few phrases to remember when lightning rolls in to your area.

“The most important thing you need to remember during a thunderstorm is, of course, lightning safety. The storm doesn’t have to be right on top of you. In order for you to be struck by lightning. So remember, when thunder roars, go indoors. That’s the safest place to be. You see a flash dash inside. You can hear it, you are near it. You can see it, you should flee it. Any corny saying you want to use will work as long as it keeps you safe and gets you inside.”

Stormtracker 59 Chief Meteorologist Heidi Moore

Lightning can also cross great distances. In 2020, NOAA recorded the worlds longest lightning bolt. The Guinness World Record 477 mile long lightning bolt stretched from Texas to Mississippi.

Read more on this: https://www.noaa.gov/stories/worlds-longest-lightning-flash-on-record-captured-by-noaa-satellites

Stormtracker 59 Meteorologist Liam Healy talked about the phenomenon known as “A bolt from the blue.”
He said:

“[Lightning is] not only going to be within the thunderstorm itself, but it can also have lightning up to about 20 miles away from the storm. Sometimes those are called bolts from the blue and they’re just as dangerous.”

Stormtracker 59 Meteorologist Liam Healy

Another aspect of the raw power of lightning can be viewed by how hot it is. A lightning bolt is hotter than the surface of the sun. The surface of the sun is about 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit. A bolt of lightning can reach 50,000-70,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

The amazing heat from a lightning bolt can cause other dangers to folks. Over the course of a few days in 2020, 15,000 lighting bolts struck California resulting in over 600 fires. The fires burned 2 billion acres before crews could extinguish them.

Aside from the danger, lightning can be fascinating to scientists. The color of lightning can tell scientists the atmospheric make up. Hotter lightning tends to be purple or white and cooler lightning tends to be yellow or red. Other colors of lightning can tell how much humidity is in the upper atmosphere even how much dust or other particulates are present as well.

And just like snowflakes, no two lightning bolts are ever the same, even if they strike the same place. Because, yes, lightning can strike the same place twice, it really isn’t picky about where it goes. The 14 ft. antenna on the 1776 ft. One World Trade Center skyscraper in New York City has been struck 50 times since 2015.

Anthony Quintano – Flicker.com

For us, when it comes to lightning safety, staying weather aware could keep you safe this storm season. Remember to know before you go when storms are in the forecast. The StormTracker 59 app can alert you when storms and lightning are in your area.

Here’s a look at some of Meteorologists Bradley Wells’ lightning photography from around the state of West Virginia.