Debunking Common Myths about Lightning

Lightning doesn’t strike twice? Really? Just ask the guy who’s been hit by lightning seven times! Knowing the truth about this and other common lightning myths can save your life!

Myth: Lightning never strikes twice in the same place
Fact: Lightning often strikes more than once

High places are struck by lightning dozens of times a year. Environment Canada says that Canada’s CN Tower gets hit by lightning 75 times a year, but that number’s got to be rising. It’s not at all unusual to see the CN Tower struck by lightning ten or more times in a single major storm. Of course, it’s designed to handle it, but it does make for awesome pictures!

It’s not just really high places that can be struck repeatedly. Some trees get struck by lightning again and again. It’s really not a good idea to stand under a tree for protection during a lightning storm.

Even people can be struck by lightning more than once. Park ranger Ken Campbell, who became known as the Human Lightning Rod, is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as having been struck by lightning seven times. He says he was struck eight times, but that one’s undocumented.

Myth: If there aren’t clouds overhead, you can’t be hit by lightning
Fact: Lightning can strike miles away from the main storm

It’s called a bolt from the  blue. It’s positively-charged lightning because it’s from a different part of the cloud, so it’s more dangerous than regular lightning. They’re five times as powerful as negative lightning, and the bolt lasts ten times longer. It can strike up to 40 kilometers away from the storm!

This kind of lightning comes from the anvil part of a major thundercloud, high up in the stratosphere. The anvil gets swept ahead or behind the storm by the stratospheric winds. Sometimes you can see it from a distance, but if you’re directly underneath it, that part of the cloud’s too thin and too high up to see even when it’s overtop of you.

A lot of regular lightning also strikes a few miles ahead or behind the main part of the storm. As many as two-thirds of all lightning victims get struck this way. It’s not because there’s more lightning there than usual. It’s because people thought they were still safe. Maybe some of them tried to get in that last round of golf when there was thunder in the air but the main storm wasn’t there yet. Enclosed cars are reasonably safe. Golf carts aren’t!

If you hear thunder, the chance of lightning’s already here. Get indoors!

Myth: Someone who’s been struck by lightning carries a charge
Fact: The charge is gone instantly and they’re perfectly safe to touch

After the lightning strikes, the charge doesn’t hang around. It goes straight into the ground. So it’s perfectly safe to help someone who’s been hit by lightning as soon as you can get there. Don’t hesitate. They’re going to need your help asap!