CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - I remember quite a while ago, when my son was playing little league soccer at the YMCA, it was a warm and muggy summer day and the sun was gradually disappearing behind the clouds during the game. This was before the age of smart phones, so I couldn't just grab my screen and check the radar. But I was starting to get a little concerned. Then, sure enough, I heard a rumble of thunder. As I waited to see if the referees were going to either delay or postpone the game, I heard someone nearby say to their friend, "It's not a problem, I haven't seen any lightning yet".
Lightning can be much harder to see in the middle of the day, and thunder is by far a more reliable indicator of impending danger. In short, if you hear thunder, it's already close enough to put you in serious jeopardy. Typically you can only hear thunder up to about 12 miles away, which means if you hear it, you're already in striking distance. Thus the phrase: If you hear thunder, get inside!
A typical summertime thunderstorm is not considered to be 'severe weather'. The storm must contain either one inch hail or larger, or be capable of producing winds in excess of 59mph. Yet, many years, the leading cause of weather fatalities is lightning, even exceeding tornadoes and hurricanes. Since lightning usually kills people one at a time, it typically doesn't make the news outside of that local area. So we don't hear much about it. But when a tornado rips through a town somewhere, it can be in the news nationwide for days if not weeks. And lightning carries on quietly killing people one at a time. And the sad part about it is, lightning is so easy to avoid, unlike tornadoes or hurricanes - just get inside, or in your car.
By now you have hopefully heard the WBTV Weather App has a new lightning notification feature, and it will alert you if there is a lightning strike within five miles of your location. You can download it free at wbtv.com.
I also came across the article below about a school in Boston that is taking no chances and has erected a lightning detection system provided by WeatherBug, the same company that supplies our Weather Network of stations around the WBTV viewing area. I love stories like this. It shows the word is getting around that lightning must be treated very seriously, and this school is a great example of that.
Oh, and back to that soccer game - after a few seconds of inaction that day, I did stand up and walked down to the field to tell the referees they needed to call the game and get people to a safe area. Don't be afraid to do the same!