The Destructive Power of Lightning

A thunderstorm is brewing. Suddenly there is a flash and bang! Loud thunder rumbles all around you. I hope you were inside, because lightning is extremely dangerous.

In the US, lightning strikes about 25 million times a year. At five times hotter than the sun, it can cause a great amount of damage. Around 50 people are killed every year and hundreds more are injured. Although fascinating to watch, you should never be outside during a thunderstorm. You don’t even need to have a storm right over head to be in a danger zone, it can strike many miles from the heart of the storm. If you are hearing thunder, you are close enough to be struck.

lightning strike at night tree silhouettes

A huge bolt of light flashes in the sky as the electricity from the cloud discharges into the ground. The photo above is what most people think about when they hear the word “lightning”, but let’s look at some other pictures and video related to this phenomena.

lightning tree on fire

When lightning strikes a tree, it is not usual for the bark to be blown off. The tree may also catch on fire. When damaged, most trees will die within two years. Now, can you imagine what would happen to you if you had been hiding there?

lightning fulgurite purple background

A fulgurite forms when lightning strikes sand. Silica and other minerals melt and fuse together from the heat. Sometimes called “fossilized lightning”, the shape is that of a hollow tube forming a pattern that the lightning took as it discharged.

Airplanes are stuck by lightning many times a year. The electricity is conducted along the metal frame and those inside are usually safe. However, it can leave scorch marks and compromise the electrical systems.

lightning house map

Every year, homes are struck by lightning. In a minor strike, people lose appliances and have electrical issues. In a major strike, homes catch fire and are destroyed. Forest fires are started this way too and can burn thousands of acres of land.

lightning scars on two people

Nothing good happens when lightning strikes a person. In direct strike, people will die or be permanently injured. Severe burns, cardiac arrest, loss of consciousness, ruptured eardrums, memory problems and chronic pain are all injuries you can suffer. About the only time lightning has done anything good was when it sent the Marty McFly back to the future in the DeLorean .

And finally, here is a pet peeve of mine. The electrical discharge from a storm that causes thunder is spelled “lightning”, not “lightening” or “lighting”.

lightning spelling diagram

  Safety Tips

  1. Never hide under a tree or lone tall object.
  2. The safest place to hide is inside a building, if one is not available then get inside a vehicle.
  3. If in a boat, get off the water as soon as possible.
  4. Immediately get out of a pool, when thunder rumbles.
  5. If on a hill our mountain, move to lower ground quickly.
  6. Do not take shelter near objects that conduct electricity.
  7. Stay off of computers and other electrical equipment.
  8. Do not take a shower during a thunderstorm, water conducts electricity.
  9. No place outside is safe when lightning is nearby.