Oklahoma experiences a lot of thunderstorms and lightning. It’s estimated that over 100,000 thunderstorms occur each year. On average, these thunderstorms are as wide as 15 miles in diameter and can last about 30 minutes. All thunderstorms are dangerous, capable of causing injuries and even fatalities as we’ve seen in the past. Severe thunderstorms can produce or accelerate tornadoes with little warning.

What exactly is thunder and lightning?

According to Weather Wiz Kids website, A thunderstorm is a storm with lightning and thunder. Its produced by a cumulonimbus cloud, usually producing gusty winds, heavy rain and sometimes hail. The basic ingredients used to make a thunderstorm are moisture, unstable air and lift. You need moisture to form clouds and rain. You need unstable air that is relatively warm and can rise rapidly. Finally, you need lift. This can form from fronts, sea breezes or mountains.

Lightning on the other hand is that flash of electricity that is produced by thunderstorm. This lightning is very dangerous because it runs like a live line of electricity. Lightning kills more people each year than hurricanes and and tornadoes.

How can you keep yourself and family safe during a thunderstorm and lightning?

  1. When you hear a thunderstorm, go inside a building on inside a car. By being outside, you increase the chances of being hit by lightning.
  2. Stay away from land-line phones. Land-line phones are usually connected to a ‘ground’ wire attached to the building and can easily conduct electricity to the phone lines.
  3. Avoid activities that involve water. Lightning can send current to metal appliances such as shower heads and other metal plumbing and into the water. This can cause electric shock.
  4. If you’re driving, reduce your speed and consider exiting to a building. While cars can offer some protection, they’re not as good as buildings in shielding you from thunderstorms. The other reason for exiting the car is that during thunderstorms visibility is poor, making it unsafe to drive. If you have to stay in the car then don’t touch any metal parts of the car.
  5. Keep a flashlight with you incase power goes out. As with many thunderstorms, you may experience power outage.
  6. Turn on your emergency radio and tune in to local weather station so you are connected to important source of information and updates.
  7. If you can’t go inside, avoid tall trees or other isolated objects such as poles and posts. If you feel like your hair is standing on end, it means that lightning is about to strike. Curl up on the ground and make a small ball. Do not lie flat.

Thunderstorm Watch vs. Warning

When listening to the weather anchors reporting on the development of a thunderstorm, you’ll hear ‘Thunderstorm Watch’ or ‘Thunderstorm Warning’. Here’s a short description and difference between the 2:

Thunderstorm watch: is issued for specific counties by the National Weather Station. It means that the conditions for the development of thunderstorms are there and it could develop but hasn’t yet. This notification tells you to be alert to this development.

Thunderstorm warning: is also issued for specific counties by the National Weather Service. It means that weather radar or storm spotter reports show that a thunderstorm is producing hail (1) one inch or larger in diameter and/or winds equal to or in excess of 58 MPH. Warning will include where the storm is located, what towns will be affected by the storm and the primary threats associated with the specific storm. If you see/hear that it’s close to you then you need to take shelter and move away from windows. Read more about this on the City of Oklahoma City website