June 23-29, 2013 is National Lightning Safety Week.
Throughout this week the National Weather Service in Jackson will emphasize lightning safety.
Today we focus on the myths and truths of lightning safety.
Some think that lightning never strikes the same place twice. This is a myth, and lightning often does strike the same place repeatedly, especially if that location is a tall and isolated object. For example the Empire State Building in New York City is hit nearly 100 times per year!
It is a myth that rubber tires on a car protect you from lightning by insulating you from the ground. Most cars are safe from lightning, but it is actually from the metal roof and metal sides that protect you - not the rubber tires. This is why 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 to the ground, so do not lean on car doors during a thunderstorm.
The most chilling of lightning myths is that if you touch a lightning victim you will be electrocuted. The truth is that the human body does not store electricity. It is perfectly safe to touch a lightning victim to give them first aid.
It is a myth that if you are outside in a thunderstorm, you should seek shelter under a tree to stay dry. The reality is that being underneath a tree is the second leading activity for lightning causalities. Getting wet is far less dangerous than being struck by lightning!
While being in a house is a safe place to shelter from lightning, there are still some ways you are vulnerable from lightning. A house is a safe place to be 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. The first is the wind generated during a thunderstorm can blow objects into the window, breaking it and causing glass to shatter. Secondly, in older homes, in rare instances lightning can come through cracks in the sides of the windows. Some think that if you are trapped outside and lightning is about to strike you should lie flat on the ground. This is a myth, and lying flat on the ground actually increases your chance of being hit by a ground current. If you are caught outside in a thunderstorm keep moving toward a safe shelter or crouch down on the balls of your feet and become the smallest object you can become.
For additional information please contact the National Weather Service Office in Jackson, Mississippi.