Last night as severe weather was rolling off the lake into West Michigan a thought popped into my head.

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Can you really tell how far away a storm is by watching for lightning and then counting the seconds until you hear thunder?

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Credit: Canva
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Since I was a kid, and still as an adult, I've loved a good thunderstorm.

Seeing the lighting across the sky and then waiting for the loud boom of thunder was so exciting.

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As a kid I was told you could tell how far away a storm was by looking for lightning and then, when you saw it, counting the seconds until you heard the thunder.

Every second you counted would equal one mile away that the storm was.

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Credit: Canva
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My curiosity got the best of me and I did some research to see if what I was told as a kid was true or not.

Turns out it was kind of correct.

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Credit: Canva
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According to the National Weather Service, if you count the number of seconds between the flash of lightning and the sound of thunder, and then divide by 5, you'll get the distance in miles to the lightning.

For example 5 seconds = 1 mile, 15 seconds = 3 miles, 0 seconds = very close.

Credit: Canva
Credit: Canva
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The technical and way-out-of-my-league explanation goes as follows:

Light travels at around 670 million mph, while sound travels through air at only about 0.2 miles per second.

So the time delay between seeing the flash and hearing the thunder is directly proportional to the distance.

Next time you see a storm rolling in give it a try, but make sure if it gets close to take shelter inside.

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Gallery Credit: Scott Clow