MOKANE, Mo - It's common knowledge that lightning can be dangerous, but what's not well known is of the two types of lightning strikes which one is more dangerous. One Callaway County man experienced this firsthand when a tree on his property was struck and bark was blasted several feet in all directions.
"It's hard to imagine the amount of power and force that was built up in this tree, somehow, to take all that bark off the way it did," landlord Jim Barton said.
It was a lightning strike that not only fascinated Barton, but really had him thinking about how dangerous lightning can be.
"I came in here this morning and I looked at this tree and I did a double take, and I thought, "What is going on?" And as soon as I looked at it again, I knew that lightning struck it," said Barton.
Lightning strikes are either positive or negative and are named for their polarity. 90-95 percent of all lightning strikes are negative strikes, which originate in the lower part of a thunderstorm and can be up to 30,000 amps.
A positive lightning strike is the rarest and most deadly of the two. These strikes start in the top of a thunderstorm, which can be nearly 60,000 feet in the air. Because the strike travels over a longer distance than a negative strike, it can be 10 times stronger (300,000 amps) and last longer.
It's this strike that blasted the bark off of Barton's tree, as the lightning bolt was making its way to the ground. Positive strikes are also the culprit in house fires and can even be deadly when a person is struck. Being able to see the aftermath of a lightning strike firsthand not only gave Barton a newfound respect for lightning, but he stressed the importance of being cautious.
"I tell you in all honesty, it makes me want to think," said Barton. "I need to be certainly more careful of lightning because if you've never been struck by lightning sometimes you take things for granted."