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Debunking Heat Lightning | The Allstate Blog

‘Heat Lightning’: Debunking a Common Myth

Have you ever seen lightning in the distance but didn't hear thunder? Most of us probably have. You may have heard that the humid air on a warm summer night could generate what's commonly called “heat lightning.” But, "heat lightning" does not exist and here's why. What Is 'Heat Lightning'?… Allstate https://i0.wp.com/blog.allstate.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/lightning-striking-from-a-purple-sky_iStock_cropped.jpg?fit=684%2C456&ssl=1
Lightning striking over a city and purple clouds.

Have you ever seen lightning in the distance but didn’t hear thunder? Most of us probably have. You may have heard that the humid air on a warm summer night could generate what’s commonly called “heat lightning.” But, “heat lightning” does not exist and here’s why.

What Is ‘Heat Lightning’?

According to The Weather Channel, you may see lightning from a thunderstorm more than 100 miles away. Since light travels much faster than sound, you won’t hear the thunder if you’re more than 10 to 15 miles away from the storm, adds The Weather Channel. So if you see lightning, but do not hear thunder, know that you’re just too far away to hear the actual sound waves, says AccuWeather.

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Lightning Safety Tips

That being said, even if the storm is a good distance away from you, it’s best to head indoors. That same storm could be moving in your direction, and safety should be your top priority. Here are some important lightning safety tips from the National Weather Service:

  • Seek shelter indoors immediately.
  • When indoors, make sure to avoid outside doors, windows, plumbing, corded phones, electrical equipment and outlets.
  • If you cannot seek shelter inside a building before lightning approaches, a car with a hard-topped roof is another option. Make sure to avoid any vehicles with a soft-topped or no roof.
  • Wait more than 30 minutes after the last round of lightning or thunder before heading back outside.

Remember, there is no such thing as “heat lightning.” But, if you see lightning, thunder may not be far behind if the storm is moving in your direction. Regardless, when a storm approaches, go indoors.