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Four Killed in Electrical Storms


Paraphrased by Steve Waldrop
August 8, 2002

More electrical storms are predicted to hit the East Coast this week after a weekend in which lightning took four lives.

The storms should bring some relief to the East Coast, which has been scorching in a string of days with temperatures of 90 degrees or higher. As August begins, the summer is well ahead of last year for sweltering days: Cities such as Washington, New York and Philadelphia have all seen more 90 degree days this year , than compared to this time last year.

In an intense lighting storm Friday, 5,000-7,000 lightning strikes hit the New York area within three hours. Lightning is five times hotter than the sun. A single bolt can reach 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit

One killed a New York City man as he stood on his apartment building roof to watch the storm. A Maryland man died Saturday when he was struck while standing on his backyard deck. A 16-year-old Boy Scout was killed by lightning during a camping trip to Pennsylvania. In Texas, a man was struck while working in a rice field in Needville, 30 miles southwest of Houston.

One of the most magnificent natural phenomena, lightning is often believed to be an infrequent occurrence. Although cloud to ground lightning strikes pose the most danger to people on the ground, they make up only approximately 20% of all lightning strikes. In actuality, lightning hits the earth an estimated 100 times per second or 8.6 million times a day.

Lightning is an electrical discharge produced to balance the differences between positive and negative charges within a cloud, between clouds or between the cloud and ground. During a thunderstorm, not only is the ground positively charged, so is everything on it. The tallest object in the area is most likely to be struck, whether it is a building, tree or a person standing alone in a field.

It is estimated that the U.S. alone receives as many as 20 million cloud-to-ground lightning strikes per year from perhaps 100,000 thunderstorms.

At least 10 people have died from lightning strikes in the past month. In all of last year 44 people were killed.


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