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Lightning Protection & Safety Resources

While it is difficult to quantify lightning losses, it is estimated that $4-5 billion damage occurs each year. Likewise, the cost of lightning protection to safeguard critical equipment and facilities from lightning strikes during severe weather is enormous.

Lightning - the most dangerous and most frequently encountered weather hazard most people experience each year - is the second most frequent weather-related killer in the United States. About 100 people lose their lives and more than 500 are injured by lightning every year. Most casualties result from inappropriate behavior during thunderstorms, particularly when people are caught outdoors during recreation or organized sports. Being aware of - and following - proven lightning safety guidelines can greatly reduce the risk of injury or death. - NOAA National Severe Storms Lab


Excerpt from the NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory...

What does lightning do to people?

Cloud-to-ground lightning can kill and injure people by direct or indirect means. It is not known if all people are killed who are directly struck by the flash itself. The lightning current can branch off to a person from a tree, fence, pole, or other tall object. In addition, flashes may conduct their current through the ground to a person after the flash strikes a nearby tree, antenna, or other tall object. The current also may travel through power or telephone lines to a person who is in contact with electric appliances, tools, electronics, or a corded telephone. Lightning can also travel through plumbing pipes and water to a person in contact either with a plumbing fixture or a person in water, including bathtubs, pools, and the running water of a shower.

Damage to the human body:

Lightning affects the many electrochemical systems in the body. People struck by lightning can suffer from nerve damage, memory loss, personality change, and emotional problems. There is a national support group for lightning and electric shock survivors.

An example is some single nerve cells, such as those extending from the brain to the foot, can be as long as 6 feet or more. These types of cells are most prone to lightning damage due to the instantaneous potential difference across the length of the cell as lightning begins to enter the body.

The intense heat of the lightning stroke can turn sweat instantly to steam and the tremendous pressure of the steam has been known to blow people's boots, shoes, and clothing off them. In places where metal is in contact with or close proximity to the body, such as jewelry or belt buckles, burn marks are found. Likewise, burn marks are found in places where the body had been sweaty, such as the feet, underarms, and chest.

How to stay safe when lightning is around - "If you can hear it, fear it!"

The best defense is plan ahead and avoid exposure to lightning when a thunderstorm occurs. Know where safe shelter is located and leave enough time to reach safe shelter before your danger level is high. Don't be an isolated tall object, and don't be connected to anything that may be an isolated tall object.

USE THE 30-30 RULE!

  • 30 seconds flash-to-bang - time to take shelter!
  • 30 minutes after the last thunder is heard - safe to resume activities.

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