Lightning can happen at any time – during snow storms, in hurricane rain bands, in dust storms and forest fires, they are even found in volcanic eruption clouds. We need to think of lightning safety anytime there is a severe thunderstorm in our area.
In the USA, there are several states where you are more likely to run into trouble. Florida leads the list, with double the casualties of the others: Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Colorado and Texas. Each year, almost 24,000 people are killed by lightning strikes around the world and it is the fourth weather killer here at home. Even if you do not live in the 10 states above, you are still at risk.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), there are three main ways lightning enters structures: through a direct strike, through wires or pipes that extend outside the structure, and through the ground.
10 Lightning Safety Facts Mom Probably Told You
Fact #1 – Lightning has its own agenda.
According to protocols for the US Army, standing outside during a lightning storm puts you at risk for a strike. If you must be outside during a storm you should NOT:
- Remain in an open area
- Remain near metal fences
- Be near railroad tracks
- Remain in tents
Fact #2 – Lightning does strike in the same place twice.
It hits the Empire State Building about 25 times a year. Some people are extremely susceptible and everyone should practice lightning safety measures – just ask Roy Cleveland Sullivan (February 7, 1912 – September 28, 1983) who was a U.S. park ranger in Shenandoah National Park in Virginia.
Between 1942 and 1977, Sullivan was hit by lightning on seven different occasions during his 35 year career and survived all of them, although he lost the nail on one of his big toes, and suffered multiple injuries to the rest of his body.
Fact #3 – It is dangerous to seek shelter under a tree during a lightning storm.
Your mom was right, trees are frequent conductors of lightning to the ground. Lightning prefers to strike tall, pointed objects. When the strike occurs, the bolt will usually follow the shortest, most conductible path to the earth’s surface. Therefore objects that stick out above everything else are more likely to be struck.
Taking shelter under trees is dangerous – recent studies of lightning victims showed several highly-vulnerable situations and activities, but the one that stood out was taking shelter under trees.
Fact #4 – You should stay in your car during a storm, but not because the rubber tires will save you.
Lightning has traveled through space…a few inches of rubber mean nothing at all. You should stay in your car because it acts like a Faraday cage. The metal in the car will shield you from any external electric fields and prevent the lightning from traveling inside it. If you are in a vehicle during a lightning storm, close your car windows and ride it out.
Fact #5 – You can be struck by lightning even if you can’t hear the thunder.
Lightning strikes can occur on a day when you cannot see storm clouds near you. This is known as “A Bolt from the Blue.” Lightning can travel up to 10 miles but our ears can hear thunder claps from only 6-8 miles away. To be safe, wait at least 30 minutes before resuming activities after a thunder storm.
Fact #6 – You should not talk on a hard wired telephone during a thunder and lightning storm.
According to Ronald L. Holle, a weather consultant and former meteorologist with the National Severe Storms Laboratory, “Corded phones are extremely dangerous during a storm. Home phone lines are protected with surge devices, but these defenses can be overwhelmed should lightning hit a nearby power pole. Someone dies every few years while talking on a phone during a lightning strike.”
Your cordless phone and mobile phones are safe to use during a thunderstorm. You can safely use remote controls, but do not touch electrical equipment such as computers, TVs or cords.
Fact #7 – You should unplug your computer and other electronic devices before a storm arrives.
It’s a good idea to protect electronic equipment — stereos, TVs, computers, etc. — with surge protectors. Good-quality ones typically cost between $50 and $100. Like the surge protection built into houses, however, they don’t offer 100% protection. Unplugging devices before a storm is your best approach.
Fun Fact #8 – It’s true! Counting between the lightning and thunder clap will tell you how far away the storm is and if it is moving toward or away from you.
Lightning’s distance from you is easy to calculate: if you hear thunder, it and the associated lightning are within range…about 6-8 miles away. The distance from Strike A to Strike B also can be 6-8 miles. Start counting… one one thousand…two two thousand…
Ask yourself why you should NOT go to shelter immediately. A lightning strike at a very close distance will be accompanied by a sudden clap of thunder, with almost no time lapse, and the smell of ozone.
Fact #9 – A lightning victim is not electrified. If you touch them, you will not be electrocuted.
While the human body does not store electricity, it is perfectly safe to touch a lightning victim to give them first aid. This is the most chilling of lightning myths. Imagine if someone died because people were afraid to give CPR!
Call 9-1-1 and if the person has stopped breathing begin CPR immediately. Use an Automatic External Defibrillator if one is available. Contact your local American Red Cross chapter for information on CPR and first aid classes.
Fact #10 – In lightning’s electrical field
If you are caught outside in a field during a thunder and lightning storm, if you feel your hair standing on end, and/or hear “crackling noises” – you are in lightning’s electric field. If you cannot get to shelter you should follow these steps:
- Immediately remove metal objects from your pockets, and remove jewelry. This includes baseball caps.
- Place your feet together with hands on ears to minimize acoustic shock from thunder.
- Duck your head.
- Crouch down low in baseball catcher’s stance with hands on knees, squat low to the ground on the balls of your feet, with your head between or over your knees.
- Never lie flat on the ground
Raised in San Antonio, Jack Dennis’ early experiences were as a newspaper reporter and private investigator. With a Texas State University bachelor’s degree, Jack studied journalism, education and psychology. He was the founding vice-president of Sigma Delta Chi, the Association of Professional Journalists at the University. Jack has received numerous awards, including Investigative Reporter of the Year from Rocky Mountain Press Association, David Ashworth Community Award, and Leadership in Management.
Some of the people and groups Jack has interviewed include:
Elvis Presley, Merle Haggard, George Jones, Willie Nelson, B.B. King, George Strait, Roy Orbison, Justin Timberlake, Steven Tyler, Freddie Mercury, Kenny Rogers, Kenny Loggins, Jackson Browne, Steve Wariner, Tanya Tucker, Scotty Moore, Fats Domino, Patty Page, Tommy Roe, Emmy Lou Harris, Johnny Rivers, Charly McClain, Kinky Friedman, John McFee, Guy Allison & Patrick Simmons (Doobie Brothers) , Randy Bachman (BTO), Jim Messina, Todd Rundgren, Alvin Lee, Gary Puckett, The Ventures, Freddy Cannon, Augie Meyer, Christopher Cross, Whiskey Myers, Sha Na Na (John “Bowzer” Baumann), Flash Cadillac, Jerry Scheff, John Wilkinson, Darrell McCall, and more.
Politicians & News
George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter, Lady Bird Johnson, Greg Abbott, Rudolph Giuliani, Larry King, Jack Anderson, Tom Bradley, Connie Mack, and more.
Clint Eastwood, Mike Myers, Taylor Lautner, Cameron Diaz, Jerry Lewis, Eddie Murphy, Antonio Banderas, Julie Andrews, Selena Gomez, Tippi Hedren, James Earl Jones, James Woods, Jim Nabors, Martha Raye, Rosalind Russell, June Lockhart, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Howie Mandel, Meg Ryan, Cheri Oteri, Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, James Drury, Melanie Griffith, Nathan Lane, Alan Thicke, Lou Diamond Phillips, Clint Howard, Tony Sirico, Cesar Romero, Michael Berryman, Tracy Scoggins, William Windom, Warren Stevens and more.
Buzz Aldrin, Alan Bean, Wally Schirra, Dave Scott, Gene Cernan, Walt Cunningham, Scott Carpenter, Gene Kranz (NASA Flight Director), Ed Mitchell, Richard Gordon, Bruce McCandless, Vanentina Treshkova (first woman in space, Russia), Alex Leonov (first man to walk in space, Russian), Al Worden, Dee O’Hara (nurse to astronauts) and more.
Sports: Joe Torre, Roger Staubach, Bob Hayes, Billie Jean King, Manuela Maleeva, Drew Pearson, Bob Lilly, Tim Duncan, David Robinson, George Gervin, Tony Parker, Shannon Miller, Cathy Rigby, Bruce Bowen, Wade Boggs, Fernando Valenzuela, Bernie Kosar, Dale Murphy, Jim Abbott, Dick Bartell, Mike Schmidt, Dan Pastorini and more.
May Pang, Bob Eubanks, Vernon Presley, Vester Presley, Charlie Hodge, Joe Esposito, Rick Stanley (Elvis’ step-brother, Harold Lloyd (Elvis’ first cousin), Doyle Brunson, Kara Peller, Hank Meijer, Norman Brinkler, Stanley Marcus, Jerry King, Mac King, Nathan Burton, Zach Anner, Louie Anderson, Owen Benjamin, Steve Byrne and more.
As head of Facilities for a major retailer (H-E-B Food/Drugs) for 20 years, Jack co-founded Professional Retail Store Maintenance Association (PRSM) and was elected President to establish PRSM magazine. Jack is a writer, speaker, golf-concierge and happiness coach. He has researched and studied happiness for over 40 years.
Jack was a prolific writer for Examiner.com, with over 1,900 articles written in six years. His articles and stories have appeared in AXS Entertainment, The ROWDY Country Music, Memphis Flash, and numerous magazines.
He is author of “Miracles of Justice,” a true courtroom drama novel about social injustice and miracles.