Lightning Strikes in Marshall County & Other Interesting Tidbits!

Posted on: 5:47 pm, February 22, 2013, by

This e-mail came in around 5:15 PM today from Troy Hord. He was camping at Lake Guntersville yesterday when some of the more intense lightning was occurring in the Guntersville area:

My wife and I live in our 5th wheel toy hauler and travel all over the country. We are currently at lake Guntersville state park campground. The pictures attached are of a couple of trees that are about 30 yards from our RV. They were struck by lightning last about 5:30 P M.

Photo Gallery Expand 1 of 9
  • This tree was the tallest thing around!

  • Bark blown off a tree by lightning strike in Guntersville. Photo by Troy Hord.

  • Bark blown off a tree by lightning strike in Guntersville. Photo by Troy Hord.

  • Bark blown off a tree by lightning strike in Guntersville. Photo by Troy Hord.

  • Bark blown off a tree by lightning strike in Guntersville. Photo by Troy Hord.

  • Bark blown off a tree by lightning strike in Guntersville. Photo by Troy Hord.

  • Troy Hord showing the base of the tree

  • Bark blown off a tree by lightning strike in Guntersville. Photo by Troy Hord.

  • Middle of the tree

So why do trees show this kind of scar from a lightning strike (or splinter and explode)? Here’s some good information from the Texas A&M University Agrilife Extension Service: Understanding Lightning and Associated Tree Damage.

One of the key bits of information is this:

Lightning’s temperature is around 50,000ºF with an electrical charge of 100 million volts; in layman’s terms, that’s bad news!

A tree’s biological functions and/or structural integrity are affected by lightning strikes. Along the path of the strike, sap boils, steam is generated and cells explode in the wood, leading to strips of wood and bark peeling or being blown off the tree. If only one side of the tree shows evidence of a lightning strike, the chances of the tree surviving and eventually closing the wound are good. However, when the strike completely passes through the tree trunk, with splintered bark and exploded wood on each side, trees are usually killed.

It doesn’t take a “severe” storm for dangerous or disruptive weather. Last night’s persistent rain with occasional lightning and thunder as well as the windy weather following the rain are all great examples of how it’s always good to be on your toes.

Here’s a tree falling in Woodlawn (Birmingham area) last night due to wet ground and a steady 20-30 MPH breeze:

As I often say, there’s never a dull moment in the weather office!

-Jason
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