Lightning Storm Survival FAQ (plus lots of quirky info)

How to survive a lightning storm
First, turn off all your electrical gadgets like your cell phones and your GPS.

Second, make sure that you don’t have any metal on your body including a backpack or in any of your items.

Third, look for a shelter. Reduce your elevation and get down to lower areas as quickly and safely as possible. Don’t take shelter near trees. Instead try to find a cave or a low-lying area, something that’s out of the wind and unlikely to be hit by the lightning bolt.

Fourth, crouch down like a catcher on the balls of your feet, with your heels touching. If that position is too difficult to maintain for half an hour, you might want to place your knees or your hands on the ground for stability, but don’t lie down flat because then the electricity from a nearby lightning strike may travel throughout your whole body.

What was the worst lightning storm ever
The most deadly lightning strike occurred in 1975 in Zimbabwe. 21 people were killed when lightning struck a hut.

The most deadly indirect lightning strike occurred in 1994 and killed almost 500 people. It seems that a severe thunderstorm created a flash flood, then lightning struck some oil storage tanks and allowed thousands of tons of aircraft fuel to pour into the river which flooded a village and then finally, lightning struck the aircraft fuel and burned up a lot of people in the village.

The longest lightning bolt ever recorded was about 200 miles long over Oklahoma. It lasted over 5.7 seconds and went from the clouds to the ground at several different points. That means that the lightning traveled at about 126,000 mph! That’s what they call a bolt from the blue. While that’s incredible, the speed of light is 5000 times faster at 670,616,629 mph.

How is a lightning storm dangerous
Estimates for death in the world due to lightning range from 6,000 a year to 24,000 with 10 times that number injured. The United States has averaged 51 lightning strike deaths over the past 20 years, making it second the deadliest form of natural disaster just behind floods. About 10% of the people who are struck by lightning will die. And of those who survive, perhaps 80% will receive long-term damage or long-term injuries. Not only are people damaged directly by the electricity of the lightning strike, they are also injured when they are thrown by the lightning when it hits. This is called blunt force trauma. Also, a Shockwave can hit you and can create hearing damage.

How does a lightning storm form
A lightning storm forms inside clouds as small pieces of ice collide together and begin to build up an electric charge. Over time the whole Cloud becomes filled with either positive or negative charges. The top of the cloud can take one sign of the charge and the bottom of the cloud takes the opposite side of the charge. The charges on the bottom of the cloud look for something on the ground to release their energy; sometimes the charges will be released to another cloud and other times it’ll be released directly onto the ground.

What to avoid during a lightning storm
Number one: don’t go outside. You might stay inside for a few hours during a lightning storm. Secondly, if you’re outside, stay away from Open Fields or hilltops because that’s where the lightning tends to strike: the tallest objects in an area and that could be you. Thirdly stay away from the water don’t be swimming, don’t be playing any water sports, and stay away from the wet ground which is hard to do when you’re in the middle of a raining thunderstorm. Also, don’t stand near trees. Fourthly stay away from metal objects like fences or pipes. Those are things you want to avoid. Likewise, don’t ride a bicycle or motorcycle during a thunderstorm.

If you’re inside, stay away from any anything that conducts electricity; stay away from electrical wiring, stay away from Plumbing, and unplug all your electronic devices. Think to yourself, if it uses electricity, then it’s going to be very easy for lightning to transfer to you from the house, through the house wiring and into you. Don’t talk on a landline phone. Don’t take a shower or bath. Don’t do the dishes, don’t stand near a window.

Lightning storm myths
It’s a myth that lightning doesn’t strike in the same place. For example, the Empire State Building gets hit from 25 to 200 times a year; even twice in the same day.

Another myth is that lightning only happens when it’s raining. Lightning can come even when the sun is out because lightning bolts can come in front of a storm and can also come out behind a storm. Lightning can hit as far away as 3 miles outside of a thunderstorm.

It’s a myth that you can count to 10 or count to 30 and try to guess how far I’ll thunderstorm is or how far away lightning strike is. These situations are far too variable to create a rule to follow. The Only Rule is you’re not safe when you’re Outdoors. When you see a lightning storm get inside as fast as possible.

While it’s true that a car can protect you from lightning the tires themselves they don’t do anything for you; that is a myth. It’s the metal that surrounds your car that protects you.

Also, you’re not completely safe when you are indoors. Lightning can strike your house and the electricity can come through your own electric wires and shock you or create a fire. Lightning can also go through windows and strike you.

It’s a myth that people can carry an electrical charge. If someone is struck by lightning, you are an absolutely no danger if you render assistance to them. Lightning can’t be stored up in the human body and then shock someone else.

Finally, Lying on the ground won’t protect you from being struck by lightning, neither will crouching but crouching might limit the damage that the lightning does to your body.

Lightning storm home safety
One, avoid the water, don’t take a bath, don’t take a shower, don’t wash the dishes, in general, don’t be close to the water during a lightning storm. Second, stay away from electrical equipment, computers, laptops, Nintendo games, and even your refrigerator. Anything that’s connected to an electrical outlet can be an Avenue for lightning to strike you. Third, stay away from your landline telephone; the cord is connected electrically to your house wiring, thus lightning can come through the house to your cord as while you’re talking on your landline phone. Fourth, stay away from the windows and the doors, stay away from anything that can allow access to lightning even concrete floors which may have metal rebar in them.

Can you shower/take a bath during a lightning storm
No, absolutely not. Stay away from all water and all metal while facing a lightning storm. See the answer above for the reason why.

Can I run my air conditioner during a Lightning storm
No. Do not run your air conditioner during a lightning storm. Unplug it and stay away from it. It’s dangerous in part because it’s metal and it’s connected to the outside of your house so that it’s very easy for lightning to strike your air conditioner and then pass through into the house.

Can a Lightning storm affect my home electronic devices
If lightning hits your house it can easily destroy anything that’s connected to a wall socket, that’s why we tell people to disconnect All Your Electrical devices during a storm. If lightning does hit your house and it does come through the lines, anything that is plugged in is probably going to be ruined. Possibly, it could explode and or catch fire and damage you.

Can I use an umbrella during a lightning storm
There are two dangers to using an umbrella during a lightning storm. The first danger is that an umbrella is higher than you so you are increasing the odds of lightning striking, as it refers to hit the highest objects. The second danger is that most umbrellas have metal in them and lightning often hits metal and then travels to you. Just get inside as soon as possible.

What to do when a Lightning storm comes while I am at the golf course
Every year many golfers are hit by lightning strikes because they get caught on the golf course and they’re unable to get to safety inside. Also, golf courses are a lot like Open Fields, where you are the tallest thing on the course, so lightning has an excellent chance to hit you. Also, the ground is often wet because of the rain, and so a lightning strike that hits a hundred feet away can transfer electricity across the wet ground a hundred feet and strike you. So the best thing you can do is get inside as fast as possible. If you can’t do, that try the Crouch down like a baseball catcher, so that you’re not the highest thing, and if lightning does strike you it will do less damage.

Is a car a safe place during a Lightning storm
You are pretty safe when you’re in a car during a lightning storm. However, it’s not a good idea to keep driving during any storm. The best thing to do is pull off to the side of the road and wait for the storm to pass. Lightning Strikes on a car should just pass through the metal and then transfer onto the ground, but don’t touch anything metal while you’re in the car. Also, keep your windows closed.

Can you swim during a lightning storm
Are you crazy? Swimming is considered one of the most dangerous things you can do during a lightning storm because water conducts electricity. And while your head is out of the water your head is one of the highest things in the water, so lightning could be attracted to you. Even if lightning just strikes near you-you’re going to feel the full shock and sound blast, which could disorient or leave you injured so that you can no longer swim, and so you drowned.

What to do in a lightning storm on a boat
The odds of your boat getting hit by lightning or about 1 in 1000. In other words, lightning hits about one out of every thousand boats every year. Most boats try to outrun the storm; however, sometimes that doesn’t work out. If you want to protect yourself from lightning when you’re in a boat, go inside the boat in the cockpit and stay away from anything metal or electrical. Try to disconnect everything that’s electrical. Hopefully, you have already shielded anything that you absolutely must have to run your boat.

What about a lightning storm at the beach
Get off the beach and get indoors as soon as possible; you want to stay away from the water which easily conducts electricity and you don’t want to be the tallest thing in the area where lightning is likely to hit you. You want to seek cover indoors or perhaps even between two rocks, but a hiding under a table will not protect you: you need to be fully enclosed.

What to do in a lightning storm while hiking
You want to crouch down like a baseball catcher and minimize the size of your body. Only let your feet touch the ground and try to have your feet heels touch each other so if lightning strikes you it’ll go from one foot to the other and not create a kind of circuit throughout your whole body. You really want to avoid having electricity going through your heart and brain.

What to do during a Lightning storm in a forest
Try to seek shelter in a cabin, a shelter, or perhaps in a cave. Also, a better place is the low point in the Terrain, such as a valley or a small depression. But don’t try to find shelter at the top of the mountain or anyplace is exposed. Avoid sheltering under a picnic table or the tallest object in your area such as a Lone Tree. Even being near the front of a cave could be a dangerous place for lightning. Make sure that you don’t have any metal touching your body and remove your metal jewelry. Even metal-reinforced clothes such an underwire bra or the zipper of your pants could be dangerous. Every piece of metal increases the odds of you being hurt by the lightning. And if you’re in a group, you should spread out so that if lightning hits one person the others will be uninjured and can assist the one who is hurt.

What to do in a lightning storm in a tent or hammock
If you are in a tent, just lie down on something dry and wait out the storm. Even if you are in a bad location, experts say, just stay where you are. A hammock, on the other hand, is too close to trees and lightning may choose to go through you (from head to toe) when going from a tree to another object. So, get out of the hammock and crouch down like any hiker.

What smell follows a lightning storm
Before a storm hits often people can smell something unusual. This is ozone which is created up in the thunderstorm cloud and the winds blow this ozone down to the ground. When you can smell this ozone, you know that is Storm is Coming. There’s a second smell during a heavy rain which is called petrichor, which comes from the words “Stone” and “divine blood” in Greek. This pleasant, earthy smell is created when rainwater hits soil and rocks and causes a chemical reaction. The smell after a rain is called geosmin, Which literally means ”earth small” Obviously it has an earthy smell and is caused by rainwater activating the bacteria in the soil.

Can lightning strike without a storm
Yes, lightning can strike several miles from the storm; either before the storm or after the storm passes’ so you could be miles from a storm and not even see it in the sky when lightning strikes in your area.

Can there be a lightning storm without rain
Yes, there can be a lightning storm Without Rain. Actually, the clouds are producing rain, but the rain evaporates before it reaches the Earth. When lightning without rain reaches the Earth, that’s called a dry lightning. This often happens when the clouds are very high in the atmosphere. This situation is very dangerous because many people don’t recognize they are facing a thunderstorm. Also, this kind of dry lightning can easily create wildfires, because the ground remains dry and plants more easily burn.

Can there be a Lightning storm without sound (thunder)
Thunder is created by lightning rapidly passing through the atmosphere, but you can only hear it a certain distance away perhaps 10 to 15 miles. So you may see lightning in the sky that is farther than 10 miles away, but you will not hear it.

How long does lightning storm last
A lightning storm lasts between a half hour to one hour. That’s a relatively short time. But remember lightning can be released both before the storm arrives and after it leaves, so play it safe and stay inside an extra 30 minutes before and after a thunderstorm.

Is an airplane a safe place during a Lightning storm
Airplanes are often hit by lightning bolts and often at the edges, such as a wing tip or the nose of the plane. But just as a car is protected by a kind of Faraday cage, so are airplanes. Thus the lightning will pass across the airplane’s metal surface and then continue out into the atmosphere. Often going from Wing to Wing or from nose to tail. It seems that most planes are hit by lightning with no damage but occasionally there is some damage to the electrical systems. The people in large passenger planes though should be completely safe. Also, the fuel tanks are protected, so lightning has almost no chance of lightning blowing up your plane. Try not to think about that. However, if you’re in a small, light aircraft you’re in more danger. People have been killed when smaller airplanes were struck by lightning and the plane subsequently crashed.

Can you have a Lightning storm in space
In deep space, lightning cannot happen without an atmosphere because lightning needs a way to carry itself. Also, it needs some kind of air to generate the positive and negative electrons. Any planet with an atmosphere could have lighting and possibly a dense nebula could. But deep space is mostly empty, so no lightning.

Can you have a Lightning storm with snow
Yes there can be lightning with snow effect is called thundersnow; you could also have thunder sleet. This is a relatively rare phenomenon because thunderstorms usually happened in the summer but they can’ rarely happen during the weather during a blizzard or a snowstorm.

Are there Lightning storms on Jupiter
Jupiter has lots of storms because it’s so large with an enormous atmosphere. Jupiter also has lightning strikes; they are created much the way they’re created by the atmosphere of the earth: charged particles create long lightning bolts which we can see Bounce from Cloud to Cloud.

Can you have a Lightning storm over a volcano
We have known for thousands of years that volcanoes can create their own lightning which is independent of the atmosphere in the clouds. Sometimes this is called a dirty thunderstorm or can be called a thunder volcano. Doesn’t that sound cool! It seems that as the particles are injected out of the volcano they form a plume and ash cloud where they become electrically charged by rubbing up against each other. Then they begin to emit lightning from within that ash cloud and later they can also emit lightning from the plume that follows after the eruption.

What is the eternal Venezuela lightning storm

In Venezuela, there is a place called Catatumbo which has the most lightning in the world. Over and around Lake Maracaibo, there is lightning on average every other day, often lasting for 10 hours. It has been this way for hundreds of years.

Thanks, share your opinions below.

You may also like...

2 Responses

  1. Maria says:

    This is very interesting,and very detailed! Must be very useful when it happens!Thanks for the informations! 🙂

    • Peter Barban says:

      Thank you! These lightning events happen a lot in America, especially in the Summer. My dad and I would open the garage door and sit in the garage while we watched the lightning storms pass by. We could really feel the tingling in the air as the storms approached. I suppose it wasn’t very safe, but I look back on those days fondly.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *