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Did you know that there are 20 million thunderstorms in the U.S. per year?
Thunderstorms are a normal precursor to hazards such as lightning, hail, wind, floods and even tornadoes. They are quite prevalent along the Front Range to the eastern plains during the spring and summer. The typical thunderstorm is 15 miles in diameter and lasts an average of 30 minutes. Lightning can occur anywhere there is a thunderstorm, and can even strike miles away from the storm. Looking at where lightning occurs helps describe where the most prevalent thunderstorm activity is in Colorado. For instance, the greatest number of lightning flashes is not found across the high mountain elevations, but rather where the mountains and plains intersect. Lightning causes an average of 55-60 fatalities and 400 injuries each year. These incidents are most common during summer afternoons and evenings. In addition, wildfire ignition by lightning is of great concern in Colorado. Every year, lightning causes numerous fires across the U.S. According to the National Fire Protection Association, lightning causes an average of about 24,600 fires each year.
Hail can also accompany thunderstorms. Colorado’s damaging hail season is considered to be from mid-April to mid-August. Colorado’s Front Range is located in the heart of “Hail Alley,” which receives the highest frequency of large hail in North America and most of the world, so residents can count on three to four catastrophic (defined as at least $25 million in insured damage) hailstorms every year. Additionally, familiarizing yourself with the terms below may help with what to expect so you can properly prepare.
Despite the risk, everyone can take steps in preparing for severe weather. Explore the information below to learn more about severe weather safety precautions.
References, Resources and More Information:
On the night of July 20th, 2009, a powerful storm hit the northwest suburbs of Denver, dumping an inch of rain in less than an hour and dropping hail one-inch in diameter. Winds of 80 miles per hour uprooted mature trees; the storm damaged numerous cars, windows and roofs. The storm also left 50,000 residents without power. The Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association (RMIIA) lists the July 20th storm as one of the costliest hazard events since 1990 in terms of insured losses in the Rocky Mountain Region. RMIIA has identified $767.6 million in damages from the storm.
Cover photo courtesy of Douglas County.