The Deadly Serious Side of Lightning

By Martin Brown

Every year, in different parts of America, lives are tragically cut short because of lightning strikes.

So, what to do when you see a bolt of lightning coming out of the blue?

If you snicker, and think, “What are the chances?” Think again. In a summer filled with violent thunderstorms, these six important tips may save your life:


Tip #1. First of all look for signs that a storm is brewing.
If the sky is dark, the wind is picking up or you hear thunder, seek shelter in the form of a building or a hard top automobile. Keep in mind that lightning strikes before it starts to rain. So if you think all is well because the heavens have not yet opened up, you’re fooling yourself. Also, be aware that summer is the peak of the lightning season, when the weather is hot the chances of lightning appearing go way up.

Tip #2. Lightning will almost always strike the tallest object around.
That said, stay away from tall trees. It’s a natural place to seek cover from the rain but it can be a fatal choice as well. One fourth of the 45 people killed by lightning in 2007 were standing under trees. Also, avoid camping in open spaces and on top of hills and ridges where you can become that target.

Tip #3. If you’re outside, stay away from metal objects.
Poles, fences and electric wires conduct electricity. You should also know that a tent will not prevent you from being struck by lightning, nor will dugouts or sheds.

Tip #4. Make yourself as small as possible.
The higher you, the more likely you are to be hit, so crouch down, put your feet together, and cover your ears to avoid hearing damage. You should also get as low to the ground as possible, but do not lie down because lightning can travel through the ground. And stay at least 15 feet away from other people, so if one is struck the current won’t pass from person to person.

Tip #5. Although it is far less likely that lightning will strike indoors, you should still take precautions there as well.
Lightning can enter buildings through wires and pipes outside the structure, so avoid using bathtubs, showers, sinks, telephones and electronic equipment such as TVs and radios during a lightning and thunderstorm.

Tip #6. And finally commit these tips to memory.
The next time you’re caught in a storm and see lightning streaking across the sky, you’ll feel that much safer than you did.

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