BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — “Dry thunderstorms” is a phrase used quite often in the wildland firefighting community.
It is usually meant to describe thunderstorms that produce little or no precipitation at the surface.
The “drier” the thunderstorm — when combined with dry vegetation — the more efficient it is in terms of fire ignitions by cloud to ground lightning.
However, for the fire weather community, a “dry thunderstorm” may be used to describe a storm producing very little rainfall — less than a tenth of an inch — which is not effective in dousing the fire spread after lightning ignition.
If it has been hot and dry for a long period — like Kern County’s current conditions with the drought — rainfall amounts need to be larger in order to moisten the fuel bed and lessen the chances of lightning fire ignition. If the surface fuel bed lies below a closed forest canopy, more rainfall is required to penetrate the canopy and reach the surface fuel.
The safest place to be during a thunderstorm is inside a sturdy building away from electrical appliances and plumbing fixtures.
If you are in a car, make sure the windows remain rolled up and avoid contact with any conducting paths leading to the outside of the vehicle like radios or the ignition.
There are no safe places outside during a lightning storm. If you are caught out in the open, avoid open fields and hill and ridge tops. Also, avoid water, wet things such as ropes, fences and poles. Water and metal are excellent conductors of electricity and can carry a lightning flash for long distances.
For more safety tips during a lightning storm, visit the National Weather Service website.
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