Thunderstorms don't have to be severe to be deadly - WBTV 3 News, Weather, Sports, and Traffic for Charlotte, NC

Thunderstorms don't have to be severe to be deadly

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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) -

The criteria used to determine whether or not a thunderstorm is severe is wind speed and hail, but every thunderstorm can be a killer. That's because, by definition, every thunderstorm produces lightning.

In a thunderstorm, there are both liquid droplets and ice crystals. As these different states of water move around and collide within a cloud, the particles become oppositely charged. When the charges become highly separated, a rapid discharge of electricity known as lightning occurs.

The only natural disaster that kills more people on average is flooding.

According to the National Weather Service, an average of 54 people per year were killed by lightning strikes between 1982-2011.

Hundreds more are left with permanent disabilities and due to the frequency of thunderstorms in our region, both North and South Carolina rank as some of the highest states for lightning related deaths and injuries.

The best advice is to head inside as soon as you hear thunder, even if it's not raining. Lightning can strike over ten miles away from the storm. If there are no strong, sturdy buildings nearby, a hard-topped vehicle is a good alternative.

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