So, How Well Does "Flash to Bang" Work?

You've undoubtedly heard of the "flash to bang" method of estimating the distance of lightning where you:

  1. Count the number of seconds starting when you see the flash
  2. Stop counting when you hear the thunder
  3. Divide the number of seconds by 5 = distance of the lightning in miles
So, how well does it work in real life?

We have a great thunderstorm in progress in Sedgwick County (see postings below), so I decided to test it on one of the more distant strikes (I know it works close-in).

Here is the timing:

and, here is what the lightning measurement said, 12 miles. Given the fact there was likely a split second lag between the sound and me starting the timing, the flash-to-bang estimate of 11 miles is in very good agreement with the measured 12 miles. 

I could clearly see with the naked eye a microburst with this part of the storm but it was too dark to photograph. Take a look at the TDWR, the strongest downburst of the evening!
Click to enlarge image. 
The radar is measuring winds up to 60 mph! 

It is well known that cloud-to-ground lightning is associated with downbursts and that is certainly the case tonight. 


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