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MAINE EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AGENCY
Severe Weather Awareness: Thunderstorms and Lightning
May 1, 2012
Summertime in Maine: Beautiful and dangerous
Summertime is a good time for outdoor recreational activities in New England. It is also the time of the year when thunderstorms are most likely. Thunderstorms can be beautiful, but they also can be deadly. While many people think they are aware of the dangers of thunderstorms and lightning, the vast majority are not.
There are three basic ingredients needed for the formation of a thunderstorm. They include:
Low-level moisture is needed for cloud formation, growth, and the development of precipitation within the cloud.
An Unstable atmosphere allows warm, moist air near the ground to rise rapidly to higher levels in the atmosphere where temperatures are below freezing. An unstable atmosphere also allows air at higher levels in the atmosphere to sink to the ground level rapidly, bringing stronger winds from the higher levels to the ground.
A trigger is something to set the atmosphere in motion.
All three ingredients contribute to the formation of a thunderstorm. In fact, as the magnitudes of these ingredients increase, so do the chances that a thunderstorms could become severe.
Recognize the signs of a coming storm
In the summertime, listen to the latest forecast and learn to recognize the signs that often precede thunderstorm development.
All thunderstorms go through various stages of growth and development. As a thunderstorm cloud continues to grow, snow and ice begin to form in the middle and higher levels of the cloud where temperatures are below freezing, and electrical charges start to build up within the cloud.
Negative electrical charges near the middle of the thunderstorm cloud causes a positive charge to build up on the ground under and near the thunderstorm. Finally, when the difference between these charges becomes too great, a giant atmospheric spark we call lightning occurs.
Lightning: An underrated killer
Lightning is an underrated killer, usually claiming its victims one at a time. Lightning also leaves many victims with life-long serious injuries. Lightning can strike as far as 10 miles from the side of the thunderstorm cloud.
In fact, many lightning victims are struck before the rain arrives or after the rain has ended. Many victims also report that at least a portion of the sky was blue when they were struck.
Although Maine and New Hampshire have less lightning than most states east of the rocky mountains, Maine ranks 8th highest in the country in terms of lightning casualties (per capita) and New Hampshire ranks 16th highest.
This summer, the National Weather Service will conduct a nationwide awareness campaign to reduce the number of deaths and injuries from lightning. Although more information on lightning and lightning safety will be provided during Lightning Safety Awareness Week that will be during the week of June 24-30, here are some basic tips to help keep you and your family safe this summer.
While inside a home or building
Tips while outdoors
Remember, when it comes to thunderstorm safety, it is your own actions that will determine your personal risk of being killed or seriously injured by the hazards that accompany thunderstorms.
Severe Weather Awareness Week ...
The National Weather Service has declared the week of April 30th through May 4th Severe Weather Awareness Week in New England. Today's message is presented in partnership with the National Weather Service Forecast Offices in Maine:
Last update: 07/20/10
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