How Far Away is the Lightning?

lightning, safety, distance, far awayDo you know how to figure out how far away lightning is from you?  This is both fun to know and important to make sure you are safe in a storm.

I love hiking and camping in the Rocky Mountains and I have learned how important it is to plan all of my activities early in the day.  This is because in the afternoons in the Rockies there are often storm clouds and lightning over the high peaks.  I know about lightning safety in the mountains, but I had never been exactly sure how to tell how far away the lightning was.  Here is an easy way to figure out how far away the lightning is and what that means for you.

Flash to Bang – Method to Figure Out How Far Away Lightning Is

This method is called the Flash to Bang because you count the time between the flash of light and the bang of the thunder.  They are actually happening at the same time, but light travels faster than sound.  The light arrives first, then you see how much longer it takes the sound to arrive.  The difference allows you to figure out how far away the lightning is.

  1.  Count the number of seconds between the flash of the lightning and the bang of thunder.  For example, count one thousand one, one thousand two, and so on.
  2. Divide the number of seconds by 5 to determine the number of miles the lightning is away from you (5 seconds = 1 mile).  For example, if you counted ten seconds then 10/5=2.  In this case the lightning is 2 miles away.

The All Important 30-30 Rule For Lightning Safety

This is the most important rule to keep in mind when it comes to whether or not you are safe if you see lightning and hear thunder.  If you can not count up to 30 seconds after you see lightning before you hear the thunder then you are in a high danger area.  That means, if possible, you need to seek immediate shelter.  You should remain in a safe area for 30 minutes after the last lightning strike.

Refer to lightning safety to see what are safe places to go to when outdoors in the mountains.