Common Myths About Lightning - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Common Myths About Lightning

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) -

Lightning is one of the most dangerous types of weather. It often intensifies during summertime thunderstorms due to the intense amount of heat and the enormous amount of positive and negative charges.

According to the National Weather Service, 92 percent of lightning injuries and deaths occur between May and September.

Lightning can strike from a thunderstorm anywhere at any time. It usually strikes taller objects, but it can strike any object just off the ground whether it’s a boat, car, or even a plane. 

Many of you probably saw the video above of a Delta flight landing in Atlanta. Luckily, the lightning passed through the metal from into the rubber tire of the landing gear. This leads me to one of the greatest myths about lightning.  

Myth: Rubber tires on a car protect you from lightning by insulating you from the ground.
Fact: Most cars are safe from lightning, but it is the metal roof and metal sides that protect you, NOT the rubber tires. Remember, convertibles, motorcycles, bicycles, open-shelled outdoor recreational vehicles and cars with fiberglass shells offer no protection from lightning. When lightning strikes a vehicle, it goes through the metal frame into the ground. Don't lean on doors during a thunderstorm.

That goes for shoes as well. Rubber soles of your shoes won’t protect you if are caught near a lightning strike. Even as we near the end of summer, it’s important to remember that thunderstorms occur year around in the Mid-South and we can have hundreds of strikes with just one storm. Here are some other common myths about lightning from the National Weather Service.

Myth: If you're caught outside during a thunderstorm, you should crouch down to reduce your risk of being struck.
Fact: Crouching doesn't make you any safer outdoors. Run to a substantial building or hard topped vehicle. If you are too far to run to one of these options, you have no good alternative. You are NOT safe anywhere outdoors. 

Myth: Lightning never strikes the same place twice.
Fact: Lightning often strikes the same place repeatedly, especially if it’s a tall, pointy, isolated object. The Empire State Building is hit nearly 100 times a year.

Myth: If it’s not raining or there aren’t clouds overhead, you’re safe from lightning.
Fact: Lightning often strikes more than three miles from the center of the thunderstorm, far outside the rain or thunderstorm cloud. “Bolts from the blue” can strike 10-15 miles from the thunderstorm.

Myth: A lightning victim is electrified. If you touch them, you’ll be electrocuted.
Fact: 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!

Myth: If you are in a house, you are 100 percent safe from lightning.
Fact: A house is a safe place to be during a thunderstorm as long as you avoid anything that conducts electricity. This means staying off corded phones, electrical appliances, wires, TV cables, computers, plumbing, metal doors and windows. Windows are hazardous for two reasons: wind generated during a thunderstorm can blow objects into the window, breaking it and causing glass to shatter and second, in older homes, in rare instances, lightning can come in cracks in the sides of windows.

Myth: Structures with metal, or metal on the body (jewelry, cell phones, Mp3 players, watches, etc), attract lightning.
Fact: Height, pointy shape, and isolation are the dominant factors controlling where a lightning bolt will strike. The presence of metal makes absolutely no difference on where lightning strikes. Mountains are made of stone but get struck by lightning many times a year. When lightning threatens, take proper protective action immediately by seeking a safe shelter and don’t waste time removing metal. While metal does not attract lightning, it does conduct it so stay away from metal fences, railing, bleachers, etc.

Myth: If trapped outside and lightning is about to strike, I should lie flat on the ground.
Fact: Lying flat increases your chance of being affected by potentially deadly ground current. If you are caught outside in a thunderstorm, you should keep moving toward a safe shelter.

 

Spencer Denton
Meteorologist
Follow Me On Twitter: Click @sdentonwx
Follow Me On Facebook: Click Spencer Denton Meteorologist
WMC Action News 5 Storm Tracking Team

Copyright 2015 WMC Action News 5. All rights reserved.

Powered by Frankly