Lightning: Creation, Striking, and Precautions

Lightning: Creation, Striking, and Precautions

NASHIK: The phenomenon of lightning becomes extremely common during the monsoon season. The Indian Meteorological Department states that deaths by lightning have doubled in the country since the 1960s, one of the reasons being climate change. According to the official data, almost 2,000 people die every year in India due to lightning strikes.

Nashik district: Yeola, Malegaon, Dindori, and Sinnar are the most frequent talukas to encounter human and cattle deaths due to lightning strikes. On 30th April 2021, two motorists lost their lives at Visapur Phata, Yeola, while a woman was severely injured as the lightning struck them. According to the reports, even a bull lost his life due to the strike.

On May 30th, 2021, two people were killed due to the strike in Sinnar taluka, and one man died after the temporary shed of a hotel collapsed on him due to stormy winds. Some even got injured and were admitted to a private hospital for treatment.

Jaipur: At least 23 people died as the lightning struck the watch tower of Jaipur’s Amer fort on July 11th. Due to the strike, the tower’s wall collapsed, leading to the death of tourists as they got buried under the debris. They were posing for selfies when the incident occurred. As the fort is built on a hill, the tower’s space reduced after collapsing, and people began falling off the place. Several other people were killed in parts of Rajasthan on the same day due to the strikes.

Gujarat: Lightning struck the famous Dwarkadish Temple in Gujarat’s Devbhumi-Dwarka district on July 13th, torn the flag present at the top of the shrine. No casualties were reported, and the structure didn’t suffer any harm.

Uttar Pradesh: In Uttar Pradesh, 41 people lost their lives across 16 districts, and 30 were injured after being hit by lightning on July 11th. A total of 250 animals died, while 20 got injured due to the strike.

Madhya Pradesh: In Madhya Pradesh, Seven people lost their lives after lightning struck various cities of the district. Fatalities were reported from Sheopur, Gwalior, Shivpuri, Betul, and Annapur districts.

What is lightning, and how is it created?

Lightning is a flash of light caused by the discharge of electricity into the atmosphere. A strong electricity discharge occurs between two clouds, cloud and earth, or within a cloud. The electric currents turn the nearby air hot (30,000 C), and the air expands very quickly to create a shocking wave that causes thunder.

What happens within a cloud?

As the temperature above clouds is below freezing, the water vapour turns into ice crystals. The ice crystals within the thunderstorm clouds flow up and down in turbulent air, crashing into each other. The crashing separates the positive and negative charges, and the top of the cloud becomes positively charged, while the base of the cloud becomes negatively charged.

Formation of the lightning bolt

As the opposite attracts, the negative charge at the bottom of the cloud wants to link with the positive charge on Earth’s land. Once the negative charge becomes strong enough, a flow of negative charge, known as the stepper leader, rushes towards the earth. The positive charge flows upward from the ground after being attached to the stepped ladder. When they meet, the strong electric current carries the positive charge to the cloud, known as the return stroke. We see it as the bright flash of a lightning bolt. The bolt of lightning heats the air causing the thunder.

When lightning strikes, run indoors

  • Get off the elevated areas like hills, forts, mountain peaks, or building’s terraces.

  • Never lay flat on the ground. Have minimum contact with the ground and turn into a ball like position.

  • Never take shelter under a tree, especially isolated trees.

  • Don’t use a cliff or a big rock for shelter Search for non-concrete shelter.

  • Stay away from concrete walls and floors.

  • Stay away from electrical conductors like power lines, windmills, etc.

  • Maintain distance from water sources like ponds, lakes, and other water bodies

“To save yourself from lightning, if you’re out in the field, always minimize your body in the most compact position possible. Neither remain in the standing position nor lay on the ground. Sit on your toes, curl your body, tuck your head in and cover it with your hands. Never take shelter under a tree, tin, or other conductors’ materials. Follow the thumb role of counting the amount of time between light and sound to know if you’re in a lightning-prone zone. As light travels faster than sound, you will see the flashlight first and hear the thunder later. If you hear thunder within a fraction of a second after seeing the flash, you’re in the lightning-prone zone. If you hear if after 3 seconds, the lightning has struck a Km away from you. As the speed of sound is 343m/s, and you hear it after three seconds, this means the thunder was 1 km away.” - Shrinivas Aundhkar, Director, MGM APJ Abdul Kalam, Astrospace Science Centre, Aurangabad

Body’s position in the field when lightening strikes
Body’s position in the field when lightening strikes
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