August is almost here and that means we are in the dog days of summer in Alabama. During this time of the year our weather pattern is often dominated by weak upper air wind patterns, extreme heat, and humidity. These ingredients combine to produce daily rounds of storms or convection which is often quite random with respect to development and very chaotic with respect to motion. These storms are often short-lived and when they collapse, dense-rain cooled air can rush to the surface producing damaging wind gusts and microbursts. While damaging wind gusts may be a product of some storms, all thunderstorms bring the threat of deadly lightning. By definition, the thunder within a storm is a product of lightning. That is our natural cue to move indoors! Lightning heats the surrounding air to 50,000°F which is hotter than the surface of the sun.
- During a storm, you are certainly much safer being inside your home or any building or shelter. However, avoid taking showers or baths, using landline telephones, and electrical appliances. Metal frames, plumbing, cords, and landlines are lightning conductors.
- If you are in a situation with no building, a vehicle can offer some protection. Seek shelter in the cab of your vehicle and roll up the windows. While it may not guarantee complete protection, a metal cab of a vehicle can help channel the energy during a strike. If caught outside with no building or vehicle, avoid trees, tall objects, large crowds, and avoid high terrain.
If you hear thunder and see a blue sky overhead, that is no guarantee that you are safe. Lightning often strikes 3 or miles away from a storm. Sometimes a strike can happen 10 to 15 miles away from a storm, called “bolts from the blue.” Play it safe through the remainder of the summer and when “thunder roars go indoors!” We have a great FREE tool called the First Alert Weather app that you can install on your tablet or mobile device. Our latest update provides lightning alerts for the set location.
WBRC First Alert Meteorologist Wes Wyatt