MYTHS AND FACTS ABOUT LIGHTNINGAmotech
Nature is very intriguing. Lightning is one of the most fascinating natural occurrences. In the past it was viewed as a type of fire and till today it can be found represented as a symbol in most early cultures. There even exist mythological representations of its destructive power.
Despite the scientific progress that has taken place during the last centuries, the mistaken beliefs about this phenomenon are still present in great part of the global population.
Lightning as we know it is one of the most destructive phenomena of nature. During a thunderstorm a big quantity of atmospheric discharges are produced that can achieve hundreds of kiloamperes. These discharges imply grave danger for people, animals, buildings, and even electronic equipment, causing severe consequences. However, lightning strikes can be prevented.
Obtaining protection from a lightning strike is complicated when people trust popular protection measures based on myths. Some of them might put your life at risk. That is why Amotech Africa through our partner Indelec, experts in lightning prevention and protection, want to confront some of the most popular myths.
- Myth: Lightning only strikes the ground.
Fact: Height, pointy shape, and isolation are the dominant factors controlling where a lightning bolt will strike. It doesn’t just go to the ground and can potentially strike the highest point available object in its path.
- Myth: Lightning never strikes the same place twice
Fact: Lightning often strikes the same place repeatedly, especially if it’s a tall, pointy, isolated object.
- Myth: We are completely safe at home
Fact: A house is a safe place to be during a thunderstorm as long as you avoid anything that conducts electricity. This means staying off corded phones, electrical appliances, wires, TV cables, computers, plumbing, metal doors and windows. Windows are hazardous for two reasons: wind generated during a thunderstorm can blow objects into the window, breaking it and causing glass to shatter and second, in older homes, in rare instances, lightning can come in cracks in the sides of windows.
- Myth: When you wear red clothes, you stand a higher chance of being struck by lightning.
Fact: Many people in Kenya, grew up with this childhood myth. This statement, however, has no basis and was probably just a way of scaring or making fun of children. Lightning will strike you regardless of the color of your clothes if you happen to be in its path.
- Myth: If you are outdoors and lightning strikes, hide under a tree or lie down on the ground.
Fact: Lying flat increases your chances of being affected by potentially deadly ground current. If you are caught outside in a thunderstorm, you should keep moving toward a safe shelter.
- Myth: You must not touch a person who got hit by a lightning strike.
Fact: The human body does not store electricity. It is therefore safe to touch a lightning victim to give them first aid. This is the most chilling of lightning myths. Imagine if someone died because people were afraid to touch them and administer first aid.
- Myth: Lightning strikes evil people only
Fact: Lightning does not discriminate and can strike potentially any object/ person in its path.
- Myth: Rubber tires on a car protect you from lightning by insulating you from the ground
Fact: Most cars are safe from lightning. Unlike popular belief it’s the metal body (roof and sides) that protect you, NOT the rubber tires. Some vehicles such as convertibles, motorcycles, bicycles, open-shelled outdoor recreational vehicles, and cars made of fiberglass shells offer no protection from lightning. When lightning strikes a vehicle, it goes through the metal frame into the ground. It is important therefore not to lean on the doors of the car when there is a storm/lighting strike.
- Myth: If you are caught outside during a thunderstorm, you should crouch down to reduce your risk of being struck.
Fact: Crouching does not make you any safer outdoors. Run to a substantial building or hard topped vehicle. If you are too far to run to one of these options, you have no good alternative. You are NOT safe anywhere outdoors.
- Myth: If it is not raining or the: Most cars are safe from lightning, but it is the metal roof and metal sides that protect you, NOT the rubber tires. Remember, convertibles, motorcycles, bicycles, open-shelled outdoor recreational vehicles, and cars with fiberglass shells offer no protection from lightning. When lightning strikes a vehicle, it goes through the metal frame into the ground. Do not lean on doors during a thunderstorm.
Fact Lightning often strikes more than three kilometers from the center of the thunderstorm, far outside the rain or thunderstorm cloud. “Bolts from the blue” can strike 10-15 kilometers from the thunderstorm.