It is mid-summer. The July heat will be relentless with that thick summer humidity, the “air you can wear” so to speak. Perfect conditions for pop-up afternoon thunderstorms … and lightning.

While Florida remains the “lightning capital” of the country with more than 2,000 lightning injuries over the past 50 years, Georgia is in the top 10.

On a typical July day, when the air is thick with humidity, towering cumulus clouds begin building in the afternoon heat. Within these clouds we have water, super-cooled water (water that is still liquid below 32 degrees) and ice.  Updrafts and downdrafts within the storm cloud force these water and ice particles to collide, creating an electrical charge. Once the electrical potential becomes great enough, a spark emerges, and lighting flashes.

Cloud to cloud or intercloud lighting is the most common type of lighting. It occurs between two or more clouds with opposite charges. Intercloud lighting happens about 10 times more often than the negatively charged lightning.

Image showing the difference between negative and positive lightning.Negatively charged lightning, as its name would suggest, is when a strike originates in the NEGATIVELY charged base of the cloud, down to the POSITIVELY charged ground. Negative lightning is about 300 million volts with about 30,000 amps. It’s also about 50,000 degrees hot and explodes the air around it, which we hear as thunder. A typical bolt is about as big around as a piece of chalk.

We have intercloud lightning, negative lightning, and one kind I am all too familiar with: POSITIVE LIGHTNING.

Many years ago, when I was at the beach in south Florida, a man who was wading the waves next to the shore, just dropped. People rushed to help him, thinking he may have had a heart attack.  Paramedics arrived and rushed him to the hospital, however he did not survive. The sun was shining brightly that day but there were several storms on the horizon, about 15 miles from the beach. It was later determined the man was killed by lightning. It was not any ordinary type of lighting. It was a POSITIVE lightning strike, sometimes called, “a bolt from the blue.”

A positive lightning strike originates on the positively charged region in the top of a storm. It also packs a wallop! It can have a billion volts, much higher than the 300 million volts of a negative strike, with 300,000 amp! It can also leap 20 miles out from its parent storm cloud. So even though it was sunny that day at the beach with storms well off in the distance, that man was just unlucky enough to be hit.

July is THE worst month for lightning and according to the National Weather Service, an average of 50 people are killed by it every year.

Finally, the outlook for July is for continued hotter than normal with above normal rainfall. Our average July rainfall is 4.75”, which makes this month the wettest of the year. Our average high temperature is 90 degrees with an average low temperature of 72.