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The dangers of lightning (2)

The bursts of light are pure electricity. Inside a thunder cloud there are lots of small bits of ice that bump into each other as they move around. All these collisions cause a buildup of electricity charge. Lighter, positively charged particles form at the top of the cloud, and heavier, negatively charged particles sink to the bottom of the cloud.

When the positive and negative charges grow large enough, a giant spark – lightning – occurs between the two charges within the cloud. Most of lightning takes place within a cloud, but some strikes the earth in bold flashes. In these cases, the charges escape the cloud making a branching path that reaches for the ground. The energy of lightning strike contains hundreds of millions of volts and lasts only a fraction of a second.

A single flash is actually a series of return strokes of electrical exchanges reaching back up into the clouds. The path reaches up to 27,000°C. This extreme heat makes a booming thunderclap as excessive pressure within the lightning path expands at supersonic rates on return strokes.

The approach of a thunderstorm should act as a warning to take cover. It is the “natural instinct” to rush for shelter under trees or use umbrella, which is a wrong move. Do not shelter beneath tall tree or isolated trees.

Although these might give shelter from the rain, lightning will strike any object which stands above its surroundings.

Get out of wide open spaces and exposed hilltops. If you have nowhere to shelter, make yourself as small a target as possible by crouching down with your feet together, hands on knees and head tucked in. If you are on water, get to the shore and off wide open beaches as quickly as possible.

Inside a large building or a hard topped car are safe places to shelter.

(To be continued) (Floro Mercene)

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