Why Worry About Thunderstorms?

A thunderstorm affects a relatively small area when compared to a hurricane or a winter storm. The typical thunderstorm is 15 miles in diameter and lasts an average of 30 minutes. Despite their small size, ALL thunderstorms are dangerous!

(Source: reocities.com)

Every thunderstorm needs:

  • Moisture—to form clouds and rain
  • Unstable air—warm air that can rise rapidly
  • Lift—caused by cold or warm fronts, sea breezes, mountains, or the sun’s heat

Thunderstorms can produce the following:


  • This natural phenomenon causes an average of 54 fatalities and 400 injuries each year, and accounts for more than $1 billion in insured losses each year
  • Lightning occurs with all thunderstorms and is directly related to the sound of the thunder
  • If you are outdoors and can hear thunder, you are in danger of being struck by lightning
  • Just remember, When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors!


  • Tornadoes cause an average of 60-65 fatalities and 1,500 injuries each year
  • Can produce wind speeds in excess of 200 mph
  • Can be one mile wide and stay on the ground over 50 miles
  • Tornadoes are usually the result of super-cell thunderstorms
  • Tornadoes are violently rotating columns of air extending from a cloud to the ground and may appear nearly transparent until dust and debris are picked up, or a cloud forms within the tornado funnel

(Source: reocities.com)

Straight-line Winds…

  • Straight-line winds, resulting from downdraft bursts, can exceed 125 mph and can cause destruction equal to a tornado
  • Are extremely dangerous to aviation

Flash Floods and Floods…

  • Believe it or not, flash flooding is the number one killer associated with thunderstorms with more than 90 fatalities each year
  • Six inches of fast-moving water can knock you off your feet
  • Two feet of rushing water can carry away most vehicles, including SUVs and pickups
  • Flash floods can occur with little warning and are especially hazardous in low-lying areas
  • According to the National Weather Service (NWS), more than half of all flood-related deaths occur when a vehicle is driven into the floodwaters
  • If you see water crossing the roadway, don’t drive into it; turn around
  • Be especially vigilant in low-lying campgrounds, such as those along rivers and creeks


  • These ice stones cause more than $1 billion in crop and property damage each year
  • Hail can be larger than a softball (five inches in diameter), fall at speeds of up to 100 mph, and do extensive damage to a recreational vehicle’s roof, slide toppers, and awning
  • Thunderstorms occur primarily in the spring and summer and are the result of moist, unstable air colliding with a cold front, warm front, sea breezes, mountains, or the sun’s heat, which results in lift
  • Moisture is drawn upward into the atmosphere, sometimes as high as 12 miles
  • Cooling, it condenses and freezes
  • When the weight of the frozen moisture overcomes the updraft, it falls
  • When the super-cooled liquid water particles (snow, ice pellets, and ice crystals) rub against each other near the freezing line in the atmosphere, the friction produces an electrical charge (when opposite charges meet, lightning results)
  • Thunder is the sound of super-heated air expanding away from the lightning at the speed of sound

When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors!

(Source: NOAA)

How hot is lightning?

  • As lightning passes through air, it can heat the air to 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit—about five times hotter than the surface of the sun

How far away was that lightning?

  • The sound of thunder travels about a mile every five seconds
  • If you count the seconds between the flash of lightning and the crack of thunder and divide by 5, you get the number of miles away from you (10 seconds is 2 miles)

Worth Pondering…
If I’m on the course and lightning starts, I get inside fast. If God wants to play through, let him.

—Bob Hope

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