4 ways you can be struck by lightning

Central Florida known as lightning capital of US

By Candace Campos - Meteorologist
Andrea De Stefani/freeimages.com

ORLANDO, Fla. - Central Florida is known as the lightning capital of the United States, thanks to our daily summertime storm pattern.

Many think the only way to be struck by lightning is by being the tallest object around. Although that is usually what happens, it’s not always the case.

Lightning travels the path of least resistance, but that path isn’t predictable.

Did you know there are several ways  you could be struck by lightning?

Direct strike

This the most deadly of all lightning strikes. It is when a person is struck by lightning directly, making them one continuous conductor. The current moves through the body’s cardiovascular and nervous system. This type of strike tends to happen in open areas like fields or highways. 

Side flash

This strike happens when lightning hits a taller object and then jumps to another object nearby. We tend to hear about side flashes when people stand under a tree (1-2 feet away) for protection but then get shocked. 

Ground current

This strike actually is to blame for the most lightning deaths and injuries. A ground current strike happens when a bolt of lightning hits an object, like a tree, and the current runs into the ground and along the surface. As the current travels, it will find other easy routes. This is why anyone in the surrounding area could potentially become a victim. If you are caught outside in a lightning storm, it’s best to remain low and keep your feet close together compared to being apart. This will eliminate you becoming a path for the current. For instance, because large farm animals have a large body span, ground current from a nearby strike could be fatal to livestock. 

Conduction

Conduction happens when lightning strikes an object that is a good conductor, like metal or electrical wires, and then strikes anyone touching that same object. Most indoor lightning casualties and some outdoor casualties are due to conduction. Staying away from electrical outlets, water faucets, corded phones and even windows and doors is best during a thunderstorm. 

If you think you witnessed someone being struck by lightning, seek medical help immediately. Not every lightning strike is fatal, but taking quick action by starting CPR and using an AED may provide the lifesaving care they need. 

Lightning strikes can travel up to 10 miles. So even if you don’t consider yourself to be in a lightning risk area, when thunder roars, go indoors.
 

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