Thunderstorms affect small areas. A thunderstorm is usually fifteen miles in diameter and only lasts for thirty minutes. It is difficult to believe that such a small area and size of thunderstorms is dangerous. According to the National Weather Service (NWS), thunderstorms kill more people than tornadoes. Every thunderstorm produces lightning, and that is the major killer. Thunderstorms have heavy rain, which leads to flash flooding. The NWS says that only 10% are serious. Severe thunderstorms are those that produce hail 3/4” in diameter and 58+mph wind or tornadoes.
The following are thunderstorm statistics of the dangers of each part of a thunderstorm.
Lightning – occurs with all thunderstorms.
- The average number of people injured is 300 and a reported 93 deaths.
- Property damage and forest destruction are several hundred million dollars a year.
Risk Factors: People who are out of doors under or near tall trees. People in or on water and individuals on or near hilltops are the most vulnerable.
- Number one killer: 140 fatalities a year
- Most of the fatalities happen at night when people become trapped in cars.
Risk Factors: People driving in automobiles when the flash floods happen near them are the most in danger.
- One type of straight-line wind is the “downburst”, which causes the same type of damage as a tornado. It affects planes small and airline carriers.
- In most of the western states, there is exceedingly little rain in thunderstorms, but strong gusts of wind and dust storms are prevalent.
- Crop and property damage causes $1 billion every year.
- In Denver, Colorado, July 11, 1990, hail caused $625 million in damage.
- Causes the most violent storms
- Tornado winds generally are over 200 miles per hour
- Each year, tornadoes cause 1,500 injuries and 80 deaths.
- The fatalities are people who live in mobile homes or trapped in their cars when the tornado hits.
Environmental Clues When a Thunderstorm is forecast.
Look and listen to the following clues.
- Increasing wind
- Flashes of lightening
- Radio static
A fun way to determine the miles between a person and the lightning flash is to count the seconds between lightning and thunder and divide by five. Another way is to count by 1000 - 1001, etc.
Thunderstorms have a certain beauty and as long as people are indoors. There should not be tornado warnings associated with this weather disaster. It makes it possible to enjoy the lightning show. The show is more beautiful than fireworks. Just be sure safety is observed during the storm.