The Path to Preparedness: Thunderstorms and Lightning

Weather News

CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) – Thunderstorms are a dangerous and fascinating part of mainly spring and summer in western Massachusetts.


  • A thunderstorm forms as electrons zigzag down from a cloud forming a “stepped leader”.
  • As the leader gets closer to the ground it draws up a positive charge known as a “streamer.”
  • As the leader and streamer merge, powerful electrical current forms resulting in a lightning strike. 
  • This whole process happens in less than a second

In an average year in the U.S. lightning causes 27 deaths and 243 injuries.

Dr. Joseph Schmidt at Baystate Medical Center describes the harm lightning can cause.

“There can be burns on the surface of the body. Certainly, there can be post-traumatic stress and psychological sequelae and then people can become the conduit of electricity. Many of those are lethal injuries because the direct current, of which there’s a tremendous amount of current, goes through a person,” said Dr. Schmidt.

Lightning can shut down the heart, but resuscitation is possible and it’s not dangerous to perform CPR on a lightning victim.

At Oak Ridge Golf Club in Feeding Hills, they have ways to inform golfers if lightning could pose a danger.

“Our procedure, first we watch the weather, you know the radar. Any lightning in the area and we go out and we sound off an air horn. So we’ll go out on the 6th hole here and then we send our rangers around and make sure everybody gets off,” said Mono Strycharz, President of Oak Ridge Golf Club.

The sound of thunder is caused by the rapid heating and expansion of air around the lightning bolt. 
If you can hear thunder, you’re close enough to a storm to get hit by lightning which can strike up to 15 miles away from a storm.

You can tell how far away a storm is using the 5-second rule. For every 5 seconds between seeing the lightning and hearing the thunder, the strike is one additional mile away.

Lightning isn’t just a risk for people, but for property too.

At Northeast Lightning Protection in Bloomfield, Connecticut, they specialize in the installation of lightning protection with the goal of reducing damage and fire risk caused by lightning to buildings.

Owner Jim Barnard and his team install a network of lightning rods and copper cabling to guide the energy from a lightning strike.

“Lightning strikes it, goes two different ways immediately and then starts going to the ground in various different paths,” said Barnard.

When lightning hits a building without protection, structural or electrical damage can result. Still, inside a sturdy building is the safest place to be.

When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors!

The Path to Preparedness:


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