Surviving a Lightning Strike

According to the NOAA 75 to 80 percent of all lightning happens inside the storm clouds and does not strike Earth. However, when it does hit land or objects it can be deadly. Most of us are taught from a young age to seek shelter from a thunder storm, that being in an open field can be just as dangerous as being under trees. Certainly anyone in the United States would not dare fly a kite thanks to the Ben Franklin story, and most of us know that getting out of the pool, lake or ocean is needed.

When we were kids we were told we could not take a shower or bath and to only use the bathroom if you absolutely could not wait. My mom would go around unplugging the television, air conditioners and anything else electrical. Today that includes the microwave, the video recorders, DVD players and the computers. Oh, and we did not answer the telephone until the cordless and cell phone were invented. She would also sit on the steps in our 2 story house away from all the windows.

You might think my mom is strange, but the fact is she is following the guidelines for lightning safety to the letter. In fact, if you go to the NOAA web site you will find out she is not crazy or weird but actually being very safe. My mom knows you are not supposed to be near the windows, or out on the porch. That if you are outside the safest place to be is inside a car, and not a convertible.

I never realized how smart my mom was about these things until last year (2007) when channel 9 in New Hampshire actually listed all the things you should do in the event of a thunder and lightning storm and it included all these things my mom was doing all these years. See I am not very young, I am 38. To be quite honest I had to apologize to my mom, because as a teenager I used to tease her about being afraid. Now I know she was only being careful and intelligent.

I would also like to warn people that if you are outside there are a few places you should not go and they include; baseball dugouts, picnic shelters, beach shacks, carports, and metal sheds. Metal sheds can be especially dangerous, when I was in middle school we had a lightning storm in town and as it was going on the fire trucks start racing down the road a few blocks away. We found out later that a bunch of kids had gone into an aluminum shed to escape the storm and it was struck by lightning. They all had to go to the hospital. Luckily for them, all but one got to go home the same day and none of them were killed. I used to ride the bus to school with them and I can attest they never thought about lightning the same after that happened.

In light of this information, I read up just to see what I might be missing and it appears the NOAA suggests everyone follow the 30/30 rule. Basically it means if you can count 30 seconds (or less) from the time you see lightning and then hear its thunder, you need to head to safety. They also recommend that you stay at your safety place for 30 minutes after you hear the final clap of thunder. According to them, statistically more people get hurt by lightning right before or after the storm seems to have past and this is because the edges of the storm can still carry those positive and negative charges that create the lightning.