Lightning 101 – How to protect yourself from this potentially deadly force of nature

It strikes the earth nearly 100 times every second.

It injures nearly 1000 people each year, and kills nearly 100.

It's hotter than the surface of the sun, with temperatures up to 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

This amazing force of nature is lightning, and the energy contained within a single bolt could light a 100 watt light bulb for more than three months.

Lightning is a very dangerous phenomenon, but thanks to years of research we are more and more aware of the power of lightning, and what we need to do to protect ourselves from its potential destructive power.

Your home is a relatively safe place to be during an electrical storm, as are most buildings. However, appliances, phones, and computers could become damaged if lightning strikes your house or a phone or power line nearby. Unplugging these sensitive items is recommended. With a lightning strike carrying up to one billion volts, a surge protector may not be enough.

But don't just protect your equipment -- protect your family. If your children are stuck inside when storms are striking outside, they will be a lot safer with a low-tech toy than with a corded video game controller. Lightning can travel right through the cord, potentially injuring anyone holding it.

If you are out and about, believe it or not, your car is a pretty safe place to be if you find yourself outside during a storm -- but not because of the rubber tires, as many people believe. Actually, the metallic frame of hard-topped vehicles diverts the electrical charge around the frame of the car and safely to the ground through the tires, which often end up blowing out. You should make sure to roll up the windows and keep away from anything metal in the car.

It is important to know that there is no safe place outside during a thunderstorm. If you can hear thunder, you are close enough to be struck by lightning. You should go indoors and stay indoors for 30 minutes after hearing the last clap of thunder. It sounds a bit extreme, but it is important to remember that lightning can strike over 10 miles away from a thunderstorm, so injuries can occur well before or after the thunderstorm is overhead.

If you are caught outside with no shelter nearby, move into a dense grove of trees, staying close to the smaller trees. Stay away from single trees or any tall objects.

By following these safety tips, you should be able to enjoy the wonder of one of Mother Nature’s most powerful displays, while avoiding any "shocking" experiences.

Though there are about 100,000 thunderstorms in the United States each year, the odds of being struck by lightning are about one in 280,000.


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