Lightning is nothing to take lightly, as millions of dollars in property damage results from it annually.

Essential tips for staying safe in a thunderstorm

There’s nothing quite like a thunder and lightning storm to demonstrate the kind of power and literal force of nature that Mother Earth is capable of wielding. In fact, according to scientists, some lightning strikes are so strong that they’re enough to power a 100-watt lightning bulb for two months!

But if you’ve ever been asleep only to be awoken by the crack of thunder, new research suggests that this is understandable, as it’s usually the A.M. hours in which lightning’s strength is at its peak.

That’s according to newly released research from scientists at the University of Alabama in Huntsville.

Led by Themis Chronis, Ph.D of UAH’s Earth System Science Center, the study involved gathering lightning strike data compiled by the U.S. National Lightning Detection Network in an effort to determine how different periods of the day influenced cloud-to-ground lightning incidences.

Their main take away, based on measuring what’s known as lightning’s “peak current,” was that the force lightning emitted tended to be at its highest before noon. Chronis cautioned, however, that more research needs to be done to determine causality.

“We can’t assume there is a direct inverse relationship in the mornings,” said Chronis. “[That’s] because there are regional variations in the local daily climatology of lightning frequency. In some regions, such as the Gulf of Mexico, lightning frequency starts to rise earlier in the day than over land regions. But the peak power spike is at the same local time as over other regions.”

As for the reason why this is the case, or at the least is believed to be, it may have something to do with the number of particles that are in the air at different periods of the day. Chronis said because there are more electrical particles in the air in the afternoon, it shortens the distance between charges, making lightning less powerful but more frequent.

Insurance claims for lightning totaled $673 million in 2013

Whenever and wherever thunder and lightning storms take place, they can make for quite the visual showcase. But entertainment aside, they can be extremely destructive as well. Based on the latest numbers from the Insurance Information Institute, homeowners insurance claims stemming from lightning damage totaled $673 million in 2013. That’s down 30 percent from the previous year and 8 percent compared to 2004. The average claim was $5,869 in 2013.

All 50 states experience severe thunderstorms, but they’re especially common in the South. Georgia, Texas, North Carolina, and Louisiana were the states that saw the most storm activity in 2013, evidenced by filing the highest number of property insurance claims, according to III data.

The Lightning Protection Institute has a few tips to be mindful of when storm clouds loom:

‘When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors’

The best place you can be when you hear the clap of thunder is under a roof. The National Weather Service recently had a campaign, called “When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors.” This serves as a good reminder for what you should do when you see lightning or hear thunder. Once inside, be sure not to stand too close to things that can shatter, like windows.

Unplug electronics

If lightning strikes your home and you have electronics plugged in, it can lead to an electrical fire. If a storm is in the forecast, go around the house and unplug appliances that may be vulnerable to damage, like computers, laptops, and televisions. LPI also suggests that you arrange to install a lightning protection system, which channels the energy of lightning strikes so that your home isn’t damaged if a bolt hits it.

Stay off the phone

If you have a landline, you’ll want to stay off the phone during a severe thunderstorm. If you need to communicate, it’s better to send a text message or call using your cell phone.

Keep away from water

Should you be out in the pool or beach on a summer day, make sure you get out of the water when thunder roars. Water conducts electricity, so it’s not safe to be swimming. Seek out shelter as soon as possible.

With these tips, you can observe the wonders of weather knowing you’re safe and sound and out of harm’s way.