How and Why lightning strikes people

And how to protect from it

Lightning is a sudden electrostatic discharge during an electrical storm between electrically charged regions of a cloud, between that cloud and another cloud, or between a cloud and the ground. A typical lightning flash contains about 300 million volts of electricity, or enough power to light a 100-watt compact fluorescent bulb for a year.

 

Lightning strikes kill about 24,000 people worldwide each year, and about 240,000 people are injured by lightning and survive. While nothing offers absolute safety from lightning, some actions can greatly reduce your risks.

Watch this video to know why Lightning strikes with compilation of all sorts of bizarre lightning manifestations including bead lightning, ribbon lightning, streamers, anvil crawlers and more.

What to Do, Not to Do when lightning:

Lightning strikes the tallest object (the tree) and down the side of the tree the strike goes. Avoid open areas and tall objects like trees, flagpoles, light poles etc. If you seek protection under a tree, which is one of the worst places to be during a storm, the lightning can hit the tree then jump to you, a better conductor of electricity since humans are mostly salty water, this kind of strike can kill the tree and the person. If a person is caught out in the open during a thunderstorm, they need to crouch down and touch as little surface of the ground as they can. Lightning will hopefully not choose this person as a better conductor because they are not contacting the ground well.

In a car you are fairly safe as the metal body of the car is a better conductor of electricity than you. If you look at the metal skin of a car, it surrounds you. But this doesn’t mean a sure protection. The moment a car gets struck there is a huge amount of electricity stored in the metal of the car. It tries many and varied ways of finding an escape path. If you are touching the metal of the car in any way (i.e. the gear lever, steering wheel, seat belt catch etc.) , it also tries to escape through you. Although this is not likely to be a huge electrical shockand is unlikely to harm you.

An umbrella can increase your chances of being struck by lightning if it makes you the tallest object in the area. Always avoid being the highest object anywhere.

In the home, the telephone, electrical appliances and the water taps (shower, wash basins, kitchen sink etc.) are the places/things to avoid while a thunderstorm rages outside.
All of these things have one property in common, copper. Copper is an excellent conductor of electricity (this is why they are used in these appliances in the first place). If lightning strikes your house then electricity travels along all the different conducting paths in the house. For the short time that this electricity is traveling, any thing attached to them, also becomes part of the circuit. Taking a shower is the most dangerous thing to do. Water and electricity don’t mix. When inside during a thunderstorm, avoid using the telephone, taking a shower, washing your hands, doing dishes, or having contact with conductive surfaces, including metal doors, window frames, wiring and plumbing. Generally, enclosed metal vehicles, with the windows rolled up, provide good shelter from lightning.

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