Cloud to Ground Lightning

Cornwall, Vermont

My favorite new phrase is “deadly cloud to ground lightning.”  Really fun to say, though obviously not fun to experience.  It’s a phrase we’re hearing a lot lately; I’m not sure exactly why, but we’ve been having tons of thunderstorms this spring.  Last night a storm with tons of lightning and thunder passed through at 11:30 and another hit at 3am.  And as I write this now in the evening another storm is passing over the house.  Time to run around the apartment, closing windows!

I love watching the lightning.  Especially when that jagged streak comes out of the cloud and shoots down to the horizon.  But it’s been a little scary a couple of times this spring.

Ollie needs a morning walk, rain or shine, so we head out without much thought about what the clouds are doing.  That may not be the smartest idea.  Last month I was in the trees, a couple of miles away from home, when the sky split wide open.  The rain pelted down, but of more concern was the fact that the thunder and lightning seemed to be stepping on top of one another.

All of my knowledge about what one is supposed to do in a lightning storm had to be filtered through more than two decades-worth of other information that has since cluttered my brain.  Definitely stay out of open fields, I remembered that and hugged the tree-line when I left the woods and headed towards home.  But what else?  A couple of months earlier, what I presume to be a lightning strike felled a widow-maker in the forest.  I discovered it the next morning on our walk–half the tree fallen right across the trail.  It’s trunk was probably six feet around.

So what, I wondered, as I picked up my jogging pace, was I supposed to do now?  My choices were forest and field.  Neither one seemed particularly safe, and I was still a couple of miles from home.  Just keep running, I guess–what other choice is there?

But just a couple of weeks ago I headed out knowing full well a storm was brewing–I could see the lightning from the porch and the direction the clouds were headed was obvious.  That time I told myself the lightning was still four or five miles away–way too far away to be dangerous.  Then, today, I heard in a weather report that lightning can hit a target on the ground 12 miles away from the cloud.  I looked it up, and lightning’s even been recorded hitting something 100 miles from the cloud!

While I don’t want to be a worry-wart, staying inside, afraid of a little rain, I should probably also be a little more conservative about going out in a storm, at least not when I can already see it heading my way.

Still, it’s pretty cool to watch these storms from the relative safety of my own front porch.  They’re pretty awe-inspiring this spring.

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One Response to Cloud to Ground Lightning

  1. Kt Thalin says:

    I couldn’t agree more, Jane. I love thunderstorms, and only get worried when the word “tornado” is attached to them. As a kid, my best friend and I would take out the ladder and climb onto her roof to watch them approaching. There were much taller trees around us, and even though we always got down before the storms were TOO close, we still took big chances,! To this day, I find what I consider to be ‘safe’ places to watch that “cloud to ground lightning”. It’s fantastic!! (And you’re right — there have been tons of thunderstorms this spring….far more than I remember in past years….)

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