The National Weather Service has designated this week as Lightning Awareness Week. Dozens of people are killed each year when struck by a bolt of cloud to ground lightning. Some victims of lightning strikes have lived to tell a tale about this shocking experience.
When I was an observer, early in my career with the National Weather Service, I would visually scan the sky for lightning as thunderstorms approached the area. Special weather observations were transmitted across the teletype to alert aviators of the intensity of a storm. Observations would document the frequency of the lightning flashes as well as the type of lightning. Coded reports were appended to the observation in abbreviated format.
Old timers who received their aviation briefings from personnel at the Flight Service Station learned that lightning was continuous and that it was cloud to cloud, cloud to air and cloud to ground.
As a youngster, my dad would put us at ease when we were vacationing by telling us that lightning in the distance was heat lightning. For a long time I believed that. Truth be known, lightning observed at a distance is associated with a thunderstorm, too far away to hear the rumble of thunder.
Play it safe, when you hear thunder head inside. Better yet, if you see lightning approaching plan your trek to shelter. Nature may not be aware of your standing in the community. As a meteorologist, when outdoors in stormy weather, I expect no favoritism from Mother Nature.