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Facts About Lightning That May “Shock” You

(Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

With a major thunderstorm rolling through the Northland today, I wanted to make sure I had a good understanding of lightning safety.  You hear a lot of different tips about lightning.  Some of them are good, some of them aren’t.  Here are some good facts that you can trust because they come straight from the National Weather Service.As soon as you hear lightning, it can strike you. Yep, even if it a distant rumbling, you are still in danger.  The best possible thing is to get to a safe place, such as a “substantial building” or “metal enclosed car.”

A substantial building is one that is fully enclosed, like a house or office.  A simple shelter like a tent, or even a car port or covered patio isn’t ideal. For you to be safe in a vehicle, it needs to be fully enclosed, with a metal roof.  Car tires do not have anything to do with safety! The notion that the rubber acts as in insulator is false.  If you are sitting in a convertible or a motorcycle, you have no protection.  The reason that you are safe in a metal enclosed vehicle is because the lightning will travel around the shell of the car.

How do you really tell how far away lightning is? Here’s the correct formula according to the National Weather Service.  When you see the flash of lightning, start counting the seconds until you hear the thunder.  Then divide by 5.  Example, 15 seconds before thunder = 3 miles away.

Can I Take A Shower or Bath During a Thunderstorm? Probably not a good idea.  The reason is that if your house gets struck by lightning, the electricity will travel through the plumbing and wiring.

Lightning is 5 times hotter than the surface of the sun. That’s about 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

Don’t seek shelter under trees during a thunderstorm. Trees get hit more from lightning than just about anything.  It’s clearly unwise to put yourself there.

Hope you learned a few things from this, and remember to get inside if you are near a thunderstorm.  Don’t risk it!  Learn more about lightning safety from the National Weather Service’s safety website.


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