Staying Safe During Summer Storms
Crack! On a stormy night, you look out the window just in time to see a brilliant flash of lightning split across the sky. When you’re safe inside, lightning is a powerful and stunning force of nature. When you’re caught outside during a storm, however, lightning is not a welcomed sight.
What Causes Lightning?
It’s true that lightning is pretty cool. Lightning occurs when static charges build up inside a raincloud. Water droplets in the lower part of the cloud move upward, and collide with ice and hail in the upper atmosphere of the cloud, causing the negative charges of the bottom to meet the positive charges of the top. When this happens, we see an electric spark, or lightning. Lightning can reach up to 27,000 degrees Celsius, which is five times hotter than the sun’s surface! This heat causes the air around the spark to rapidly expand and vibrate, which causes thunder.
Now that you know how hot and powerful lightning is, it’s easy to imagine why lightning strikes can be so dangerous to people on the ground. Thankfully, fatalities are relatively rare. Only 10% of people struck by lightning die from their injuries. In 2016, 39 people were killed by strikes, and there have been six fatalities so far in 2017, with three of them occurring in Florida. However, dozens of others are injured by lightning strikes every year. Injuries include heart attacks, blunt trauma, neurological disorders, muscle injuries, blindness and eye injuries, skin lesions, and serious burns.
Types of Lightning
For someone to be killed or injured, the lightning does not have to directly strike them. There are three other prominent types of strikes:
- Side flash or side splash, which occurs when lightning strikes a taller object near the victim, like a tree or pole, and a portion of the current moves from the taller object to the victim
- Ground current, which occurs when lightning strikes a tree or other object, like in a side flash, and the current travels outward from the strike along the ground surface
- Conduction, which occurs when an object, like metal wires, provides a path for the current to follow, and can cause injury if people come into contact with it
Lightning Safety Tips
In Florida, storms are something we experience fairly regularly, so it’s important to know some basic safety tips. If you get caught outside during a storm:
- Get indoors, if possible
- Crouch low to the ground, because lightning is more likely to strike a taller object
- Stay away from any trees, poles, or other tall structures or objects
- If you are with a group of people, separate from each other — if lightning strikes the ground, it could injure everyone at once if they are standing in a group
While it is safer to be inside, you also need to take indoor precautions during a storm.
- Avoid using water, including showering or washing dishes
- Do not use any electrical equipment, like computers, stoves, gaming systems, or anything else connected to an electrical outlet
- Stay away from windows and doors
If someone is struck by lightning, get help right away. The victim’s body will not retain any electrical energy, so it is safe to approach and aid them. Call 911 immediately, and only perform CPR if you are trained to do so.
By taking the right precautions, you can continue to watch the amazing lightning from a safe spot inside your house!
The attorneys at Perenich, Caulfield, Avril & Noyes represent those involved in car accidents, motorcycle accidents, bicycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, and other types of personal injury matters. Our firm is one of the oldest personal injury law firms in Tampa Bay. There are no attorneys’ fees or costs unless we prevail for you. Call our office 24 hours a day at 727-796-8282 or simply click here to schedule a free case consultation.