You’ve probably heard the stereotypical tales about lightning, and in this week’s Weather Ready Nation Report we decided to find out if these are actually true, or if they’re just a myth.
#1: If you’re stuck outside in a thunderstorm, being under a tree is better than not shelter at all.
This is a myth! Sheltering under a tree is just about the worst thing you can do! If lightning strikes a tree, the charge can move down the tree and spread out through the ground.
#2: Width of a thumb and hotter than the sun.
This is true! While the intensity of a lightning strike can make them appear as thick bolts across the sky, the actual width of a lightning bolt is only about 2-3 cm and the temperature can reach up to 54000°F. That’s five times hotter than the surface of the sun!
#3: If it’s not raining or there aren’t clouds overhead, you’re safe from lightning.
This is a myth! Lightning often strikes more than three miles from the center of the thunderstorm, far outside the rain or thunderstorm cloud. “Bolts from the blue” can strike 10-15 miles from the thunderstorm
#4: Your hair stands up right before lightning strikes.
This is a fact! For lightning to form you need ice crystals in the thunderstorm cloud. Those ice crystals rub together and create a an electrical charge. As the charges in the ice crystals get larger, positive charges at the surface travel up objects, including your body causing your hair to rise. If you feel this happening get indoors immediately.
#5: Do not bathe or charge your phone during a thunderstorm.
This is true! This is by far the most told lightning tale, and it is true. If your house is struck by lightning, it tends to travel through the wires and plumbing in your house which means that anything that is plugged into the wall, connected to wiring or plumbing can be electrified if stricken.
#6: Wearing metal on your body attracts lightning.
This is a myth! The presence of metal makes very little difference in determining where lightning will strike. Height, pointy shape and isolation are the dominant factors in whether lightning will strike an object (including you). However, touching or being near metal objects, such as a fence, can be unsafe when thunderstorms are nearby.
#7: Lightning never strikes the same place twice.
This is a myth! Lightning often strikes the same place repeatedly, especially if it’s a tall, pointy object that’s isolated. The Empire State building is hit an average of 23 times per year and has been known to be struck more than once in a single storm.
If you’re looking for more myths, click here.