TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Up until earlier this year, Tampa Bay had long been known as the “lightning capital of the United States” for the thousands of lightning bolts that hit the ground each year.
95% of the lightning strikes form when negative charges build up on the bottom of a thunderstorm cloud and travel toward the ground where there is a build up of positive charges. These are called negative lightning strikes and make up the majority of the lightning in most thunderstorms.
The other 5% of bolts are called positive strikes. These are considerably more powerful and can strike many miles away from the nearest rain drop. They are commonly referred to as a “bolt from the blue” because they seem to strike with blue skies in the background rather than dark storm clouds or rain.
These positive strikes begin in the very tip tops of thunderstorm clouds, sometimes up to 10 miles up, where positive charges build up. Negative charges build up on the ground anywhere from 10 to up to 20 miles away from the actual thunderstorm.
The powerful bolt will travel from the top of the storm cloud down to the ground. The flash from these bolts last longer than typical cloud-to-ground negative strikes because there is a larger amount of energy being transferred. This makes them more lethal as well.
If you can hear thunder, you are close enough to being struck by lightning, even if there is no rain falling near you.