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How to Avoid Getting Hit by Lightning

Imagine for a moment that you are outside, on a hot, dry summer day. You are enjoying yourself, but then the sky gets darker. Clouds block out the sun. In the distance, you see the bright flash of lightning and hear the booming clap of thunder. You hear it coming nearer, and fear that you may be struck.

Lightning is a powerful force of nature, but few truly understand exactly what it is. Lightning is electricity that is discharged from a cloud. It is like when you rub your shoes on the carpet on a dry day. Imagine that you are the cloud. There is static electricity in you, waiting to escape. The next person you touch (or any metal object) is the ground. Zap! You feel the jolt, and you may even see the light arching between your finger and the "ground". Lightning is the same, on a much larger scale.

Lightning is somewhat lazy, and will take the shortest path, striking the tallest object. That is why lightning strikes lightning rods, they are conductors and the tallest things around. The lightning rod diverts the electricity into the dirt, where it is harmless. There is no way to completely stop lightning, but if you're careful, you can avoid injury or death.


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    Pay attention to the weather. The best way to avoid being struck by lightning is to stay away from storms. Always check the weather forecast before heading outdoors. If you notice that it may rain, be sure to arrive home as soon as possible or cancel the event. Even if there are no predictions of a storm, keep an eye on the clouds, as the forecast is not always accurate.
    • When participating in outdoor activities, such as camping or hiking, be aware of the weather. Depending on your location, the weather may quickly change. Always be prepared to escape from a storm.
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    Avoid open areas and tall objects. The taller the object, the more likely lightning will hit it, and the electricity might jump to you. Elevated or watery areas are also unsafe, as there is a higher chance of you being hit by lightning. It's recommended that you take shelter in lower, dry areas. Stay low by crouching with your head in between your knees and covering your ears with your hands. Press your heels together, as this will prevent electricity from reaching your heart if you're struck. Avoid completely flattening yourself on the ground.
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    Stay away from objects that may conduct electricity. Fences and metal poles are examples that are commonly found outdoors. If you're carrying metal objects that stick out, quickly remove them. While smaller metal items, such as piercings or electronic devices, are of no risk, the ones that protrude from you and are isolated endanger you. Umbrellas are an example.
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    Take shelter in a car. Although they're mostly made of metal, they're one of the safest places to be during storms. If the car is struck by lightning, it will travel through the metal in the car and around your body (not through it) and safely into the ground. Place your hands in your lap, and don't let your body come into contact with the items inside, such as the steering wheel or door handles.


  • Don't be near water and don't use any electronic objects.
  • Check the weather ahead of time.
  • If you are in a house during a lightning storm, avoid taking a shower or bath, stay away from electrical outlets and things plugged into them, and don't use phones, computers, etc.
  • There is a simple way to tell about how far away lightning just struck. When you see lightning, count how many seconds pass until you hear thunder (since light travels faster than sound). Divide that number by five and that is the approximate distance in miles.
  • You can also tell how far away lightning is by the sound of the thunder. If lightning strikes close, the thunder will sound like a sudden crash. If lightning is in the distance, the thunder will roll and rumble.
  • Bring a lot of rubber materials such as rubber boots to decrease the chance of getting hit (if outside.)


  • Getting hit by lightning can kill you instantly. The best thing you can do to reduce the risk of being struck is to not be caught outdoors in a thunderstorm. Check your local forecast if you plan on being outside all day.
  • If your hair begins to stand on end or you feel a tingling sensation, get inside immediately. This is a sign that a lightning strike is imminent.
  • When finding a ditch to avoid getting struck, watch for flash flooding.

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Categories: Storms | Weather Safety