What You Might Not Know About Lightning

Did you know that lightning kills more people than both tornadoes or hurricanes? According to the National Weather Service, the average American has about a 1 in 13,500 chance of being struck by lightning during a lifetime. Each year in the US, about 300 people are struck by lightning. That may seem like a lot; fortunately, 90% of people who are struck by lightning survive! However, lightning injuries can leave some victims with life-long health problems. That’s why we need to be safe during a lightning storm.

What exactly is lightning? The National Weather Service defines lightning as: “a giant spark of electricity in the atmosphere or between the atmosphere and the ground. In the initial stages of development, air acts as an insulator between the positive and negative charges in the cloud and between the cloud and the ground; however, when the differences in charges becomes too great, this insulating capacity of air breaks down and there is a rapid discharge of electricity that we know as lightning.”

Fun Facts About Lightning Provided by the National Weather Service

  • Lightning often strikes the same place repeatedly, especially if it’s a tall, pointy, isolated object. The Empire State Building is hit an average of 23 times a year.
  • Most cars are safe from lightning, but it is the metal roof and metal sides that protect you, NOT the rubber tires.
  • The human body does not store electricity. It is perfectly safe to touch a lightning victim to give them first aid.
  • All thunderstorms produce lightning and are dangerous.
  • As lightning passes through air, it can heat the air to 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit (about 5 times hotter than the surface of the sun).

What To Do If Someone is Struck

  • Call 9-1-1
  • Give first aid. Begin CPR if you are trained.
  • If possible, move the victim to a safer place. Lightning CAN strike twice in the same place.
  • If someone has received an electrical shock, the injuries are not always obvious. Make sure to look for these symptoms:
    • Changes in alertness
    • Headache
    • Problems with vision, swallowing or hearing
    • Irregular heart beat
    • Muscle spasms and pain
    • Numbness or tingling
    • Breathing problems

Lightning Safety Tips

  • Regularly monitor weather conditions. A simple forecast can tell you whether you need to delay outdoor activities.
  • Have a lightning safety plan. Know where to go when getting caught in a lightning storm. This can save you time when finding a safe place to go. If you get caught outside, run to a sturdy building or hard-topped metal vehicle as soon as possible.
  • Immediately move to a safe shelter if you hear thunder. If you can hear it, that means lightning is close enough to strike you. Most lightning victims are stuck on the way to shelter because of waiting too long to take action.
  • Stay off corded phones. Lightning can travel through a home’s wiring system.
  • Don’t touch plugged-in electronics such as computers or TVs indoors when there’s a lightning storm outdoors. Stay safe by using remote controls to operate them.
  • Unplug expensive electronic equipment before a storm hits—this will help preserve your electronic items. Once lightning starts, it’s not safe to touch those plugs or cords.
  • Keep your distance from plumbing or anything that can conduct electricity. Metal plumbing and the water inside it can conduct electricity.
  • Don’t go outdoors and stay away from windows and doors. Even a small leak or conduction point can let lightning into your home.


Follow these tips in order to stay safe next time a thunderstorm occurs. If you want to learn more about lightning, visit the National Weather Service’s Website or print out their lightning guide as a quick reference. When it comes to lightning, there is an ample amount of info to learn.



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