The other day I got caught out and found myself running during a thunderstorm. One minute I was happily jogging around town and the next, the sky was dark and looming as it growled and spat at me. I could hear the loud rumbles in the distance and then suddenly there would be a clack of lightning which lit the sky. Believe me I was terrified.
My instinct was to get home as quickly as possible and to seek shelter as I went. Because I was on the edge of town it was a case of simply running from one shelter to the next. So first I found myself under a MacDonald's awning, then an abandoned shop entrance followed by a school bus shelter and then an avenue of big trees. The final part was me legging it as fast as I could, running from tree to tree.
I made it home safely but I was lucky. I had committed several errors and could have put my life in danger. The odds of getting struck by lightning are 1 in 13,500 but obviously the people with the highest risk are those that spend activity time outside and this includes runners. As a side note, Fishing is the most common outdoor activity for lightning deaths.
If you hear thunder then you know that lightning is around as thunder is a result of lightning. You can't have thunder and no lightning.
Lightning can be described as a giant spark of electricity in the atmosphere between either the clouds, the air, or the ground. Lightning can occur inside one cloud or pass from cloud to another but the most dangerous form of lightning is from cloud to ground.
Thunder is the noise that lightning makes. Lightning heats the air around it to excessive temperatures, thus causing the air to expand explosively fast. This rapide expansion then creates a shock wave which results in the booming sound of thunder.
Thunder and lightning usually occur at the same time but you usually see the flash of lightning before you hear the thunder, as light travels faster than sound.
Sound travels at about 1 mile for every 5 seconds. Count the seconds between the flash of lightning and the boom of thunder. If the time is 30 seconds then the lightning is 6 miles away. The rule of thumb is to seek shelter immediately if the seconds between the lightning and thunder is less than 30. Equally you should stay indoors until 30 minutes after the last boom of thunder. This is known as the 30/30 rule.
If someone gets struck by lightning, you need to act quickly. The victim will not be carrying an electrical charge so it will be safe to touch them.