Lightning Myths and Facts

Lightning Myths and Facts

Lightning Myths and Facts

Myth #1: Lightning never strikes the same place twice.

Fact: It can strike multiple times, especially if it’s tall.
Example: The Empire State Building gets struck by lightning between 25 and 100 times every year.

Myth #2: Lightning only strikes objects that are tall and sharp.

Fact: It can strike anywhere, and on any material. As illustrated in this famous lightning photo, the Washington Monument is struck midway. Note the unattached upward leader at the top. The use of Lightning Eliminators can avoid this catastrophic damage.

Myth #3: If you are out in the open during a thunderstorm, take shelter under a tree to avoid lightning.

Fact: Trees are at a high probability of being struck by lightning.
NEVER stand under or near trees during a thunderstorm. The 2nd major cause of causalities due to lightning is people standing under trees during a storm. Seek shelter inside of buildings, cars etc.

Myth #4: If it’s not raining or there aren’t clouds overhead, you’re safe from lightning.

Fact: Lightning often strikes more than three miles from the center
of the thunderstorm, far outside the rain or thunderstorm cloud. “Bolts from the blue” can strike 10-15 miles from the thunderstorm.

Myth #5: If you’re caught outside during a thunderstorm, you should crouch down to reduce your risk of being struck.

Fact: Crouching doesn’t make you any safer outdoors. Run to a substantial building or hard topped vehicle. If you are too far to run to one of these options, you have no good alternative. You are NOT safe anywhere outdoors.

Myth #6: A lightning victim is electrified. If you touch them, you’ll be electrocuted.

Fact: The human body does not store electricity. It is perfectly safe to touch a lightning victim to give them first aid.

Myth #7: Rubber tires on a car protect you from lightning by insulating you from the ground.

Fact: Most cars are safe from lightning, but it is the metal roof and metal sides that protect you, NOT the rubber tires. Remember, convertibles, motorcycles, bicycles, open-shelled outdoor recreational vehicles and cars with fiberglass shells offer no protection from lightning. When lightning strikes a vehicle, it goes through the metal frame into the ground. Don’t lean on doors during a thunderstorm.

Myth #8: If you are in a house, you are 100% safe from lightning.

Fact: A house is a safe place to be during a thunderstorm as long as you avoid anything that conducts electricity. This means staying off corded phones, electrical appliances, wires, TV cables, computers, plumbing, metal doors and windows. Windows are hazardous for two reasons: wind generated during a thunderstorm can blow objects into the window, breaking it and causing glass to shatter and second, in older homes, in rare instances, lightning can come in cracks in the sides of windows.

Myth #9: Lightning flashes are 3-4 km apart.

Fact: Old data said successive flashes were on the order of 3-4 km apart. New data shows half the flashes are about 9 km apart. The National Severe Storms Laboratory report concludes: “It appears the safety rules need to be modified to increase the distance from a previous flash which can be considered to be relatively safe, to at least 10 to 13km (6 to 8 miles). In the past, 3 to 5 km (2-3 miles) was as used in lightning safety education”.

Myth #10: A high percentage of lightning flashes are forked.

Fact: Many cloud-to-ground lightning flashes have forked or multiple attachment points to earth. Tests carried out in the US and Japan verify this finding in at least half of negative flashes and more than 70 % of positive flashes. Many lightning detectors cannot acquire accurate information about these multiple ground lightning attachments.

Myth #11: Lightning can spread out some 60 feet after striking earth.

Fact: Radial horizontal arcing has been measured at least 20 m. from the point where lightning hits ground. Depending on soils characteristics, safe conditions for people and equipment near lightning termination points (groundrods) may need to be re-evaluated.

Myth #12: If trapped outside and lightning is about to strike, I should lie flat on the ground.

Fact: Lying flat increases your chance of being affected by potentially deadly ground current. If you are caught outside in a thunderstorm, you keep moving toward a safe shelter.

Myth #13: Structures with metal, or metal on the body (jewelry, smartphones, watches, etc), attract lightning.

Fact: Height, pointy shape, and isolation are the dominant factors controlling where a lightning bolt will strike. The presence of metal makes absolutely no difference on where lightning strikes. Mountains are made of stone but get struck by lightning many times a year. When lightning threatens, take proper protective action immediately by seeking a safe shelter so don’t waste time removing metal. While metal does not attract lightning, it does conduct it so stay away from metal fences, railing, bleachers, etc.

Myth #14: If thunderstorms threaten while you are outside playing a game, it is okay to finish it before seeking shelter.

Fact: Many lightning casualties occur because people do not seek shelter soon enough. No game is worth death or life-long injuries. Seek proper shelter immediately if you hear thunder. Adults are responsible for the safety of children.

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