19 June 2016

The Bolt from the Blue That Can Kill You

Posted by Dan Satterfield

Note that most hurricane deaths are from flooding.

Note that most hurricane deaths are from flooding.

Lightning+fatalitiesMost folks know to get inside when a thunderstorm approaches, and we meteorologists keep telling folks that unless you are in tornado alley, you’re much more likely to die in a flood or by lightning, than a tornado. The word is getting out, because deaths due to lightning have dropped dramatically over the past 60 years. Even so, most folks worry much more about tornadoes than floods or lightning bolts, but perhaps the images below will help change that.

My friend Richard “Heatwave” Berler is a legendary meteorologist in Laredo Texas (at KGNS-TV), and is well-respected by broadcast meteorologists across the country. Richard sent me this radar image, and it’s really something you should see. 


"Heatwave" and I at the AMS Conf. in Austin this past week.

“Heatwave” and I at the AMS Conf. in Austin this past week.

A ‘bolt from the blue’ is what we call lightning that comes out of the anvil of a thunderstorm. These anvils of ice crystals can be blown many miles away from the storm, and are often are positively charged bolts, which can carry even more energy to the ground. If you’re unlucky enough to be surprised by one, it may be your last surprise, and you may not even know a thunderstorm is about, nor will you hear thunder. They truly are a deadly bolt from the blue, and “Heatwave” caught some on radar using the national lightning detection network. The storm was over 50 miles away, but look at the cloud to ground bolts over Laredo Texas.


Something you should remember!