WeatherKansas City Spring Weather Special


Lightning activity in warm seasons, how to stay safe if caught outside in a thunderstorm

Posted at 10:45 AM, Mar 30, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-31 16:37:12-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — We are no strangers to thunder and lightning in Kansas City since both can occur year-round.

But most lightning activity occurs during the warm seasons, which makes good sense because thunderstorms begin with warm, rising air — forming a cloud.

A combination of warm rising air and temperatures near or below freezing in a cloud causes ice particles to form, collide and charge each other positively and negatively.

Negative charges end up in the cloud base and positive charges at the cloud top, while the ground is also mainly positively charged.


Lightning occurs when these two different charges get strong enough and discharge.

This discharge happens most often within the cloud, but sometimes it happens from the cloud to the ground.

Most strikes are known as negatives strikes but some are positive strikes as that energy from the very top of the cloud, known as the anvil, meets with rogue negative ground charge. These don’t happen often, but they are the strongest and deadliest.


If you are caught outside in a thunderstorm, it is tempting to seek shelter under a tree to stay dry, but that is more dangerous as lightning is more likely to strike the tree.

Instead, try to get inside — ideally a building, but a car will work.

You can determine how far away a thunderstorm is by counting. For every 5 seconds between the sight of lightning and sound of thunder, the storm is 1 mile away.

Another trick is to listen to the pitch of the thunder. A long rumble means the storm is several miles away while a sharp crack means the storm is close.

Surprisingly, men are four times more likely to be struck by lightning than women because of the activities they participate in, according to the National Weather Service.

If you do encounter someone that has been struck by lightning, it is safe to touch them immediately. Call 911 and begin CPR.