Lightning: fascinating and deadly - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Lightning: fascinating and deadly

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MADISON (WKOW) -- Last July, 16-year-old Ben Richter was standing outside his family's Watertown farm when a lightning bolt struck and killed him.

In August 2007, three people were electrocuted on Madison's north side when lightning struck near a bus stop.

Nationally, about 62 people are killed by lightning each year.

Lightning forms when an electrical field develops between the base of a thunderstorm, where the charge is negative, and an object on the ground, such as a tree, where the charge is positive.

Unlike charges attract, and when the electrical field becomes large enough, a current flows and lightning occurs.

In 2007, 98 percent of lightning fatalities occurred outside, 89 percent were male, 25percent occurred while standing under a tree and 25 percent occurred on or near water.

To keep yourself safe, remember the 30-30 rule. If the time between when you see the lightning and hear the thunder is 30 seconds or less, seek shelter for at least 30 minutes.

The National Weather Service says lightning has been documented to travel up to 40 miles away from a thunderstorm and strike the ground, even with a blue sky overhead.

So if you're planning outdoor activities and thunderstorms are in the forecast, you may want to reconsider, especially when golfing or camping.

And while inside during a thunderstorm, stay away from anything connected to power, telephone or cable lines, as well as water and plumbing. But remote controls and wireless phones are safe.

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