Surviving a Lightning Strike

They say lightning never strikes twice in the same place, but once it still too many times for a person hit by a lightning strike. Many times people don’t realize they have been struck. In the United States a reported 67 people die from strikes each year. Often many people do not realize they have been struck, and thus the lack of accurate records of lightning injuries. Annually it is believed that 200-1,000 people are struck, with 4 in 5 being men especially those who work outside and play golf.

Be forewarned:

Lightning usually strikes before or after a storm passes through. It has been know to reach out up to 2 miles in front or behind the storm cloud.

On average the strike is 10 km in length.

The temperature of a lightning strike can reach 30,000 degrees Celsius or 4 times hotter than the sun.

Voltage in a cloud to ground strike is 100 million to 1 billion volts.

Lightning will reach from one cloud to another, known as cloud to cloud; or from cloud to ground. Lightning is an exchange of extra particles. The cloud has extra positive neutrons and is attracted to a gathering of negative ions, whether in another cloud or on the ground.

Thunderstorms usually form during the late afternoon, but their strength can carry them well through the night.

Prevent being hit by lightning:

Do not stay out in the open during a thunderstorm, but do not seek shelter under a solitary tall object. Safety is in numbers. Also stay away from lakes, rivers, and beaches that are open and exposed.

Other unsafe places are underneath canopies, small picnic shelters, outhouses, and rock overhangs.

When hiking, spread out away from your fellow hikers. Lightning can jump as far as 6 meters, so maintain at least this distance.

If you are out in a thunderstorm, seek shelter as soon as possible. A sturdy enclosed building or vehicles is the best. But if not readily accessible, find a grove of uniform tress, or low bushes and brush, but do not stand directly underneath.

The safest position is to crouch on the balls of your feet. If possible, find a rock that is a little detached from the other rocks in the area and crouch on that one. This is important as many of the persons struck by lightning are not struck by the main channel, but a “side flash.” By keeping as much of your body off the ground as possible, you reduce that risk.

Stay away from water, edges of a forest, the top or bottom or a ravine because these areas allow the lightning to follow the slope.

Wait at least 30 minutes after the lightning and thunder has quit before going outside. But make sure the storm has left the area as well.


If someone is hit by lightning, start treatment as soon as possible. A person is not electrified by the lightning hit, so you will not be hurt as well. If the person has no pulse or heartbeat, start CPR. Treat the electrical burns as normal burns, but remember that a shock of electricity has just passed through the person’s body so neurological and internal injuries may present themselves. Get that person to the ER as soon as possible.


It’s difficult sometimes to convince doctors that you’ve been struck by lightning. Lightning is not like a regular electric shock, which will leave burn marks on entering and exiting. Instead, it can rip clothes off the body without leaving a mark. Tests preformed on the individual usually return normal. MRI’s, CT scans, and X rays only tests the normality of the body, not the functions of the body.

Symptoms don’t appear immediately after the strike. Often times a survivor will feel peculiar 6-12 months after the strike.

Quite frequently, 70% of strike victims become afflicted with bizarre disorders. Short-term memory loss, fatigue, depression, tremors, mini-seizures, and sleep disorders are not unusual, but the most common is chronic pain and lack of equilibrium.

93% of the time, strike victims are misdiagnosed with malingerers or psychosomatic disorders. Even still doctors are unsure of what the electric shock does to the human body’s nervous system.

Many strike victims become so dissatisfied with their “new life” and mourn their old lifestyle that they turn to suicide. If you or anyone you know has been struck by lightning, be sure to seek help beyond that of a medical doctor.

You should know there are a small amount of doctors are devoted to post-electrocution syndrome, as lightning strike victims are called.

Also, a yearly conference is held in Pigeon Forge Tennessee named the Annual International Conference of Lightning-strike and Electric-shock Survivors. It’s a good place to commune and commiserate with those who understand.

Looking at the numbers one might think that the odds of surviving a lightning strike are good, and while the odds are indeed good it is the after effect that causes the person, and their family, the most harm. Be informed and protect yourself and your family from a dangerous lightning strike.