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Fact vs. Fiction: Debunking common lightning myths

When thunder roars, get indoors
lightning-cleveland
Posted at 1:25 PM, Aug 06, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-06 13:25:47-04

CLEVELAND — This weekend will be hot and humid! The humidity and heat will help fuel popup showers and storms. Not everyone is guaranteed to see rain, because these storms will be hit or miss. The best chance will be in our Eastern communities during the heat of the day. While severe weather is not expected this weekend, any storm will bring heavy rain and lightning. Remember: NO storm is ever safe due to lightning. When thunder roars...get indoors! If you are able to hear the thunder, the storm is close enough to strike you.

In fact, in the United States, lightning strikes 25 million times and on average kills about 20 people a year, but hundreds more are severely injured. So far in 2022, 12 people have been killed from lightning. That number jumped this week after 3 people were killed in Washington D.C. by lightning.

LIGHTNING DEATHS

DEBUNKING COMMON LIGHTNING MYTHS:

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: Heat Lightning is real.
Fact: Heat lightning is not a specific type of lightning. It is actually a distant thunderstorm in the distance and is too far away to see the actual cloud-to-ground flash or to hear the accompanying thunder.

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 an average of 23 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. Some storms can strike 10-15 miles from the thunderstorm!

Myth: Rubber tires on a car protect you from lightning by insulating you from the ground.
Fact: It is actually 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.

Myth: If outside in a thunderstorm, you should seek shelter under a tree to stay dry.
Fact: Being underneath a tree is the second leading cause of lightning casualties. Better to get wet than fried!

Lightning over field
Thunderbolt over cereal field at summer time storm

PLAYING IT SAFE:

  • NO PLACE outside is safe when thunderstorms are in the area!
  • If you hear thunder, lightning is close enough to strike you.
  • When you hear thunder, immediately move to safe shelter: a substantial building with electricity or plumbing or an enclosed, metal-topped vehicle with windows up.
  • Stay in safe shelter at least 30 minutes after you hear the last sound of thunder.

Indoor Lightning Safety

  • Stay off corded phones, computers and other electrical equipment that put you in direct contact with electricity.
  • Avoid plumbing, including sinks, baths and faucets.
  • Stay away from windows and doors, and stay off porches.
  • Do not lie on concrete floors, and do not lean against concrete walls.

Last Resort Outdoor Risk Reduction Tips. If you are caught outside with no safe shelter anywhere nearby the following actions may reduce your risk:

  • Immediately get off elevated areas such as hills, mountain ridges or peaks
  • Never lie flat on the ground
  • Never shelter under an isolated tree
  • Never use a cliff or rocky overhang for shelter
  • Immediately get out and away from ponds, lakes and other bodies of water
  • Stay away from objects that conduct electricity (barbed wire fences, power lines, windmills, etc.)

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