Lightning facts and myths

Do you know everything about lightning safety? Think again. Have a look below at some of the most commonly known “facts” about lightning to see whether they are right or wrong.

1. If it is not raining, there is no danger from lightning.

Fact or Fiction?

Fiction. Lightning often strikes outside of heavy rain and may occur more than 16 km away from a storm. If you can hear thunder, you are at risk of being struck by lightning and should take shelter immediately. Remain sheltered for at least 30 minutes after the last rumble of thunder.

2. The rubber soles of shoes or rubber tires on a car will protect you from being struck by lightning.

Fact or Fiction?

Partly fact, mostly fiction. Rubber-soled shoes and rubber tires provide no protection from lightning. The lightning strike between the cloud and the ground has potentially traveled thousands of meters through thin air, therefore rubber soled footwear or tires are inconsequential.

However, the metal shell of a car provides a pathway for the lightning strike to flow around the vehicle provided the car has a hardtop metal roof (not a convertible). Although such vehicles do not offer you absolute protection from lightning, you and others are much safer inside a car with your hands on your lap, than outside.

3. People struck by lightning carry an electrical charge and should not be touched.

Fact or Fiction?

Fiction. Lightning-strike victims carry no electrical charge and therefore can and should be attended to immediately.

4. "Heat-lightning" occurs after hot summer days and poses no threat.

Fact or Fiction?

Fiction. "Heat-lightning" is actually just lightning from a thunderstorm that is too far away for thunder to be heard. This does mean however that the storm may be moving in your direction.

On some occasions, lightning from a line of thunderstorms may remain mostly in the air and not touch the ground, but this situation can change rapidly and you should seek shelter immediately when lightning is present.

5. A tree is a safe place to hide under in a downpour during a thunderstorm.

Fact or Fiction?

Fiction: 20% of lightning deaths occur from people sheltering under a tree or under an open gazebo. While it may provide some relief from the rain, it is a very dangerous place to be during a thunderstorm. A building or a vehicle is a much safer and drier option.

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