It never ceases to amaze us some of the weather myths that just won’t go away. We’re talking the lightning can’t strike the same place twice and hiding under an underpass during a tornado types of myths. They aren’t things to take lightly, and not knowing the difference between fact and fiction could be the difference between life and death.
So, let’s talk about some of the most common misconceptions.
Lightning Myth #1: Lightning won’t strike the same place twice
Let’s start with the obvious: lightning can, in fact, hit the same place twice. Actually, the Empire State Building in New York City is struck by lightning about 23 times a year. It’s not even that unheard of that the same building or structure gets struck multiple times in one storm.
Lightning Myth #2: Heat lightning
Ever been outside on a clear evening with no rain or clouds in sight? Then, all of a sudden, you catch a huge flash out of the corner of your eye. How can this be possible?
It’s commonly misstated as heat lightning. There is actually no such thing as heat lightning, and what you’re seeing is the lightning from a far off storm. But that still doesn’t mean you’re safe. Being struck is certainly less likely the further you get from a storm, but you could still be at risk if you are within 20-40 miles of a storm per the National Fire Protection Agency.
Lightning Myth #3: One mile per second
You can tell your distance from a storm by counting the seconds between when you see lightning and hear thunder, but it’s not the way you’ve always been told. Knowing what we know now, sounds like anything less than a minute is within the danger zone. NOAA and the National Weather Service recommend seeking immediate shelter if your count is less than 30 seconds!
The following table is the correct Flash-to-Bang estimations calculated based on the speed of sound at sea level:
|If thunder is heard||The lightning is . . .|
|5 seconds after a flash||1 mile away|
|10 seconds after a flash||2 miles away|
|15 seconds after a flash||3 miles away|
|20 seconds after a flash||4 miles away|
|25 seconds after a flash||5 miles away|
|30 seconds after a flash||6 miles away|
Contrary to popular belief, storms do not always move from west to east. This is an especially dangerous myth when you try to outrun a hurricane, tornado, or any other storm. Some types of storms – like tornadoes – are especially unpredictable to the uninformed victim. Wondering what does drive the direction? The wind and atmosphere, not your compass.
Earlier we mentioned that hiding under an underpass during a tornado is a bad idea. Wondering why? Wind dynamics. Structures like overpasses cause the wind from a tornado to concentrate and become stronger. This probably sounds weird, but have you ever noticed how a light wind can become a whipping force in a corner or alcove? Same idea.
This myth is going to seem inconsequential, but we all know that heat can be a real killer. It turns out wearing white versus black during the summer has no effect on your body temperature. White clothing reflects sunlight and it also reflects your own internal heat. Black absorbs sunlight but it doesn’t transfer it to your body. Ultimately, the best thing to do is wear loose billowy clothing to allow your body to get rid of its own internal heat, minimize the transfer of heat from sunlight, and take full advantage of the science of evaporation.
Finally, dry heat and humid heat are equally dangerous. Your body is still going to react the same way to 105-degree weather. The only difference is that there’s no tricking your body in humid heat. It’s gross, sticky, and undeniably sweaty. Dry heat makes it a little bit easier to forget just how bad we’re straining our bodies. No matter which hot situation you find yourself in, seek shade, rest often, and keep hydrated.
Avoid myths. Carry an INO Weather Pro™.
We know by now your head is probably spinning a little bit with new knowledge (and wondering what else the world has been lying to you about). We developed our INO Weather Pro™ with you and your safety in mind. Keep facts and science close by with real time measurements, distance from ground to lightning strikes, temperature, and more.