How far away is the thunderstorm?

We've had a few thunderstorms recently, and my 3 year old has been terrified. One started this afternoon just as his brother went to sleep and we sat wrapped in a blanket and talked about the storm as we watched the flashes and listened to the bangs.

I explained that when there was a big gap between the flash and the bang, the lightning was further away than when the flash and bang are close together. We counted the seconds (using the word 'crocodile' which takes about a second to say, as no clock was in view!) and talked about how far away the storm was. A gap of five seconds means it's about a mile, roughly the same distance we'd walked to feed the ducks and see some cygnets this morning.  We talked about places we go which are about 2 miles and about 3 miles away to give him a rough idea of just how far away the storm was when he counted two or three sets of five 'crocodiles'.

I tried to explain that light travels faster than sound, but I'm not sure if this made any sense. He got the hang of the counting though and as the time between flashes and bangs got longer he told me the thunderstorm was getting further away!

Thunderstorm weather symbol

I suggested that we could make our own thunderstorm symbol to put up if there were more storms. He remembered the one he'd never used in his weather diary so we found it and I drew a larger pencil outline for him to paint. He's got into painting recently and he sat patiently making his 'thunderstorm warning sign' as the rain poured down outside, accompanied by the occasional distant rumble of thunder.  He's decided this is our thunderstorm warning sign, and I need to have blu-tack at the ready to put it up in the event of another storm.


  1. Just to note that the above has had an error corrected - it's five seconds per mile.


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