Skip Top Navigation
Thunderstorms Email Search Home
Skip Sub Navigation

» Disaster from a Kid's Point of View

» Professor B's Thunder & Lightning Secrets

» Important Terms

» Sabrina's Lightning Safety

» What is Lightning?

» If Someone is Hit by Lightning

» Lightning Fact and Fiction















While thunder won't hurt you - lightning will! So it's important to pay attention when you hear thunder. Thunderstorms happen in every state and every thunderstorm has lightning. Lightning can strike people and buildings and is very dangerous.

Thunderstorms affect small areas when compared with hurricanes and winter storms. The typical thunderstorm is 15 miles in diameter and lasts an average of 30 minutes. Nearly 1,800 thunderstorms are happening at any moment around the world.

Despite their small size, all thunderstorms are dangerous. Every thunderstorm produces lightning, which kills more people each year than tornadoes. Heavy rain from thunderstorms can lead to flash flooding. Strong winds, hail, and tornadoes are also dangers associated with some thunderstorms. You can estimate how many miles away a storm is by counting the number of seconds between the flash of lightning and the clap of thunder. Divide the number of seconds by five to get the distance in miles. The lightning is seen before the thunder is heard because light travels faster than sound. (Of course, get safe shelter first, before you take the time to count the seconds!)

Thunderstorms need three things:

  • Moisture - to form clouds and rain.
  • Unstable Air - relatively warm air that can rise rapidly.
  • Lift - fronts, sea breezes and mountains are capable of lifting air to help form thunderstorms.

Thunderstorms are most likely to occur in the spring and summer months and during the afternoon and evening hours but they can occur year-round and at all hours of the day or night. Along the Gulf Coast and across the southeastern and western states, most thunderstorms occur during the afternoon. Thunderstorms often occur in the late afternoon and at night in the Plains states. Thunder and lightning can sometimes even come with snowstorm! During the blizzard of March 1993, lightning resulted in power outages near Washington, D.C.

Things to Know What You Might Feel In A Disaster Photos
NOAA Weather Radio What Did You Learn?
FEMA for Kids footer graphic