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Thunderstorm and Lightning

Thunderstorm and Lightning

A thunderstorm is formed from a combination of moisture, rapidly rising warm air and a force capable of lifting air such as a warm and cold front, a sea breeze or a mountain.  All thunderstorms contain lightning.  Thunderstorms may occur singly, in clusters or in lines.  Thus, it is possible for several thunderstorms to affect one location in the course of a few hours.  Some of the most severe weather occurs when a single thunderstorm affects one location for an extended time.  Lightning is an electrical discharge that results from the buildup of positive and negative charges within a thunderstorm.  When the buildup becomes strong enough, lightning appears as a "bolt".  This flash of light usually occurs within the clouds or between the clouds and the ground.  A bolt of lightning reaches a temperature approaching 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit in a split second.   The rapid heating and cooling of air near the lightning causes thunder. Thunderstorms affect relatively small areas when compared with hurricanes and winter storms.  Despite their small size, ALL thunderstorms are dangerous.  The typical thunderstorm is 15 miles in diameter and lasts an average of 30 minutes.  Of the estimated 100,000 thunderstorms that occur each year in the United States, about 10 percent are classified as severe.  Thunderstorms can produce tornadoes, lightning, strong winds, heavy rains (which can cause flash flooding), and hail.  Some thunderstorms can be seen approaching, while others hit without warning.   It is important to learn and recognize the danger signs and to plan ahead.  

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