I love thunderstorms–at least I love them when I can watch them from a safe place. Because even though I love to watch lightning, I know it can be dangerous.
Lightning is, after all, electricity. As it passes through the air, it heats it up, making the air literally explode. The noise of that explosion is thunder. Because light travels faster than sound, we see the lightning before we hear the thunder.
Check your thunderstorm safety smarts. Are these statements true or false?
If it’s not raining, you are far away enough from the storm to be safe.
False. If you can hear the thunder, you are close enough to encounter the lightning.
Photo caption:A bolt of lightning strikes the Empire State Building during a summer rain storm in New York July 15, 2014.
You should stay inside until 30 minutes after the last thunder you hear.
After 30 minutes, you should be safe.
Photo caption:Lightning strikes One World Trade Center in Manhattan as it is seen from Weehawken during a summer storm over New York, July 14, 2014.
It’s not safe to be in a car, because it’s made of metal.
Actually, the metal of the car is what makes it safe; if lightning hits it, the electricity will go around the car, not inside it. It’s best not to touch anything metal inside the car. Don’t stay on the road, though–pull over and park somewhere safe. Put on your hazard lights if you are at the side of the road.
Photo caption: A dark cloud hangs over Fenway Park on July 7, 2014.
You shouldn’t bathe, shower, or swim indoors during a thunderstorm.
Because metal and water conduct electricity, theoretically if lightning hits the building, the electricity could go through the pipes, into the water, and give you a shock.
Photo caption:Dark clouds overtake the skyline as rain from Hurricane Arthur covers the city, dampening all Independence Day festivities on Friday, July 4, 2013.
If you are outside during a thunderstorm and can’t get inside, take shelter under a tree.
Tall things are bad, because lightning is more likely to hit them. Metal things like bleachers are bad, too, as is standing water. Crouching low on the ground is the best way to avoid a lightning strike.
Photo caption: Sisters Patrice Roll of Berkelee, CA (left) and Jan Roll- Mederos of Jamaica Plain walk along Franklin Park during the rain on July 4, 2014.
And because we all love Bill Nye…
Here’s a great Bill Nye the Science Guy episode (great show–there are lots of episodes on YouTube) about the science behind storms that you can watch with your kids.