This week June 19th through 25th is National Lightning Awareness week. Lightning is something we see a good amount of in southern Colorado. News 5 Today’s Chief Morning Meteorologist Stephen Bowers explains exactly what the phenomenon is and why it’s so important for us in southern Colorado to be knowledgeable about it.
"Lighting is an electrical discharge from a storm, that's as simple of an explanation as it gets. The atmosphere always want to be in balance while electricity likes to build up in different layers of a cloud in a thunderstorm. Lightning is a way of balancing out that electricity so you don't have build up in the clouds. Lightning is on average about 60 thousand degrees fahrenheit and some lighting can be hotter than the surface of the sun, and can go all the way up to 80 thousand degrees fahrenheit"
There are places in the United States where there are more lightning strikes, but not many.
Bowers says "On average according to the National Weather Service we have more than half a million cloud to ground strikes here in Colorado and most of those happen in the Pikes Peak region, in El Paso and Teller counties. Pikes Peak plays a huge role in that because of the up slope wind right against the mountains, in combination with the terrain it all plays a big role in our thunder storms. We have the 18th highest number of lightning strikes, and the 3rd highest number of fatalities related to lightning, so people’s safety in this state when it comes to lightning is a big deal.”
There is a phrase I often hear Stephen say during our morning broadcasts when it comes to lightning. It’s a saying I have heard from many meteorologists I have worked with: when thunder roars it's time to go indoors.
"Anytime you can see lighting, anytime you can hear thunder you’re close enough to be struck,” Bowers says. “Lightning can strike more than 10 miles away from its parent thunderstorm cloud, and when that happens you want to go inside. Indoors is the best place to be. If your indoors you don't want to be on a hard wire telephone, you also don't want to be near windows or open doors. Lightning has been known to travel through those and hit people. If you live in an older home and you have metal pipes, you don’t want to be taking a shower or washing the dishes because lightning can travel through those metal pipes in your home. If you can't go inside during severe weather you want to go into a hard topped vehicle. A convertible won't be safe, but a hard top is in the event of lightning, and you want to stay there until at least 30 minutes after the last lightning strike that last rumble of thunder."