The power of lightning - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

The power of lightning

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MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) -

We endured a rainy and somewhat stormy start to the work week. Although there were no significant severe storms in the area, there were a lot of heavy rain and frequent cloud to ground lighting strikes. 

Lightning is the sudden electrostatic discharge that occurs during thunderstorms. 

There are three types of discharge that can occur, one is within electrically charged regions of a cloud called intracloud lightning, some people even refer to this as heat lightning during summertime storms. 

There is cloud to cloud lightning, which is the electrostatic discharge between two clouds. 

And, there is cloud to ground lightning, which is the most dangerous and even deadly. Cloud to ground lightning strikes occur in two forms, positive and negative with negative strikes being the most frequent. Thunderstorms are generally charged positively at the top of the storm cloud and negatively at the bottom of the storm cloud. The ground is generally positively charged and when enough static electricity develops between the cloud and the ground a discharge occurs in the form of a lightning bolt, with the negative charge of the lower portion of the cloud and the positively charged ground. 

Occasionally the positively charged top of the storm will discharge and connect with a negative spot at the Earth’s surface to create a charge up to ten times more powerful than a negative charge. This positive charge can also occur up to ten miles from the core of a thunderstorm and is called “a bolt from the blue” ,since it can strike the Earth in an area that is rain free and sunny. 

Monday afternoon, as storms were moving through the Mid-South John and Sophia Williams witnessed the power and deadly force of lightning when it struck a tree just outside their front door in Hernando, MS. The force of the lightning strike turned the tree trunk to splinters in the blink of an eye. They were fortunate that the lightning bolt struck the tree and not there home, which could’ve caused major damage or even a fire. 

Meteorologists have a saying “when thunder roars, go indoors”  because lightning can be deadly. 

Ron Childers
Chief Meteorologist
WMC Action News 5

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