struct by lightning
October 2, 2008 2:27pm CST
Your odds of being struck by lightning are an estimated 1 in 700,000, which makes it more common than being in an aircraft accident (1 in 11 million), being bitten by a shark (1 in 8 million), or dying from food poisoning (1 in 3 million). In 2006, 46 people died as a result of being struck by lightning and 246 were injured, according to the National Weather Service. Here's what you should know about lightning strikes, and how you can try to stay safe. Why and When Lightning Strikes In a thunderstorm, rising and falling air separates positive and negative charges inside the cloud. These charges build up and release electrical energy, which creates lightning. When lightning becomes a visible strike, electrically charged air moves down until it meets with a powerful surge of electricity from the ground. Here, we debunk two common myths. Myth: A safe place to be during a storm is under a tall tree. Fact: Trees are often lightning victims. Why? Height, high resin content, needles, and leaves lend themselves to a high electrical discharge during a thunderstorm. These reasons are why you should never find shelter under a tree during a storm. Myth: Lighning only strikes during the middle of a heavy downpour. Fact: Contrary to popular belief, lightning often strikes outside of heavy rainfall—sometimes up to ten miles away. Lightning is more common during the summer months because the warm, moist air produces the right conditions. How to Avoid Being Struck What should you do if you're outside when a storm strikes? Here, a few preventative steps you can take to assure you don't become a victim of this improbable and unfortunate event. • Get inside. If you are planning on being outdoors, be sure you know where the closest shelter is. If you're caught outdoors with no structure nearby, get inside a hardtop car. • Avoid trees. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), approximately 25 percent of lightning strike deaths occur when the victim is under a tree. • Follow the 30/30 rule. The National Weather Service suggests you follow the 30/30 rule. The rule states you should seek shelter if there is a delay of thirty seconds or less between a lightning flash and the sound of thunder. You should also stay indoors until thirty minutes after the final clap of thunder. Here are a few things to remember if you are struck. Injuries resulting from lightning strikes are not the same as those from other types of electrical shocks. According to NASA, a lightning strike delivers about 300 kilovolts of electricity while a typical industrial electrical shock is 20 to 63 kilovolts. When a person is struck, the electrical current passes over the surface of the body and may produce severe burns around the head, neck, and shoulders. If a person is struck and survives, he or she may still be at risk for kidney failure, infection, or muscle and tissue damage. The most immediate cause of death as a result of a lightning strike is cardiac arrest. This is why we take lightning very seriously around here. Many times we are outside when we first hear thunder. This last Spring we were outside when it hit and couldn't get to the computer soon enought to save it, exit hard drive. Thank goodness no fire, serge protector may have helped there.
• United States
2 Oct 08
A friend of ours was hit by lightning last year. He works at a college. Someone had opened the door at the end of a hallway to see how much it was raining. Lightning travelled through the open doorway, past 2 or 3 other people and struck our friend who was walking in the hallway holding a tin mug of coffee. He was taken to the hospital and recovered nicely. So even indoors, You just never know!
• United States
2 Oct 08
Two of my closest friends had relatives struck by lightening and killed within the same month. One was on a golf course and the other was in a boat trying to get back to shore. I don't know the details of the golf course incident. The boating accident, on the other hand, happened while my friend's brother had reached to turn the key to start the motor. Lightening apparently struck the water and came through the bottom of the boat and completely through his body, exiting through the top of his head.