Breakdown: Myths and facts about lightning

Breakdown: Facts and myths about lightning

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - This time of year, a lot people will spend time outdoors, and typical of summertime, heat and humidity can help aid in the afternoon pop-up shower and storm activity across the Mid-South.

You hear meteorologist on TV say “When you hear thunder roar, go indoors.” Why is it important to go inside during storms? Also, where is a safe spot to go? In this episode of the Breakdown, lets dive into some myths and facts about lightning.

First off, just because it’s not raining or there aren’t clouds overhead, you aren’t safe from lightning. Lightning often strikes more than three miles from the center of the thunderstorms, far away from the rain or thunderstorm cloud. “Bolt from the blue” lightning can strike some 10 to 15 miles from the thunderstorm.

Also, a myth is structures with metal, or metal on the body (such as jewelry, cell phones, watches, etc.) attract lightning. Height, pointy shape, and isolation are the dominate factors controlling where a lightning bolt will strike. The presence of metal makes absolutely no difference where lightning strikes. While metal does not attract lightning, it does conduct it so stay away from metal fences, railings, bleachers, and more.

What about when you are outside, if you are caught in a storm should you lie flat or crouch down into a ball to reduce being struck? Crouching does not make you any safer outdoors, run to a substantial building or hard topped vehicle. If you cannot make it to a structure, there are not good alternatives. As if you lay flat on the ground, you could feel the affects of deadly electric current.

Speaking of finding a safe place, rubber tires don’t necessarily protect you from lightning by insulating you from the ground. Most cars are safe from lightning, but it’s the metal roof and sides of the car that protect you not the rubber tires. When lightning strikes a vehicle, it goes through the metal frame and into the ground, just don’t lean on the doors during a storm.

If someone is struck by lightning, they are not electrified, so there is no risk to be electrocuted. The human body does not store electricity and it is perfectly safe to give the victim CPR and first aid if they are struck.

Knowing the facts about lightning can be key in a very dangerous situation. For more myths and facts about lightning you can visit the National Weather Service.

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