Do you think you know what to do during a lightning storm? Odds are, there are at least a few things your teacher got wrong — and believing in these myths can be a fatal mistake. Though rare, lightning is the second highest weather-related cause of death in the United States. Luckily, with some basic precautions, injuries and deaths can be avoided. Click through to check out some of the most persistent myths about lightning.
1. Myth: If You’re Stuck Outdoors, a Tree is Your Safest Shelter.
After ground currents, trees are actually the second leading cause of fatalities durning a storm. Despite what you may have been told in school, it’s much safer to keep moving to a safe shelter than to take refuge under a tree.
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2. Myth: Your Home is Totally, 100% Safe.
Your home is usually safe — at least safer than outside — but there are still precautions you should make while waiting out a storm indoors. Avoid any objects that conduct electricity, like phones, plumbing, appliances and cables. You should also stay away from windows, since the storm may grow powerful enough to break through the glass. If your home is older, you also run the risk of the lightning seeping through the windows.
3. Myth: If You Don’t See Rain or Clouds, You’re Safe.
If you can see lightning off in the distance, but there’s not a drop in the cloud-free sky, that doesn’t mean you’re free from harm. In fact, the so-called “calm before the storm” (and after a storm) are some of the most dangerous times to be struck by lightning. That’s because lightning strikes are the most hazardous when the lightning travels so fast that the storm hasn’t even caught up with it.
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4. Myth: Lie Flat on The Ground If You’re Outdoors During a Lightning Storm.
No, no, no! If you lie flat on the ground, you’re actually more at risk of injury, because you are exposing yourself to dangerous currents in the ground. As always, seek shelter instead of staying where you are.
5. Myth: Having Metal on You Attracts Lightning.
Does your watch or cell phone make you more susceptible to lightning strikes? Luckily, no. Lightning will strike a nonmetal object just as easily as a metal one — it really doesn’t have a preference either way. But that doesn’t mean metal is entirely safe after it’s been struck because it conducts electricity. So, to be safe, stay away from anything metal during a lightning storm, but don’t waste time removing the metal that’s on you; the faster you can find a shelter, the better.
6. Myth: Lightning Strikes are Usually Fatal.
Here’s the one myth that we’re happy to report isn’t true — you have a greater chance of walking away from a lightning strike than, well, not walking away. The estimates vary, but anywhere between 3-30% of lightning-related injuries are fatal. The actual number is probably on the lower end of that range, because lethal strikes are likely overrepresented, and non-lethal strikes are likely underrepresented.
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7. Myth: You Should Never Touch Someone Who Was Struck by Lightning.
Quite simply, that’s just not how it works. The human body doesn’t store electricity. It’s perfectly safe to touch a person injured by lightning, and often necessary, because they likely need first aid.
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8. Myth: Lightning Doesn’t Strike the Same Place Twice.
This popular saying has little truth behind it. Lighting can strike the same place twice, three times, or even a few dozen.