A lightning expert from the National Weather Service took the rare step today to correct news reports about 64 people reportedly being killed by lightning in Bangladesh recently.
While meteorologist John Jensenius doesn’t question the number of deaths, it’s the cause that he disputes.
According to an Associated Press story making the rounds online, “people’s exposure to metal equipment like cellphones” is one of the reasons behind the lightning deaths in Bangladesh.
“Please note that this is a myth!” Jensenius wrote in an email. “Unfortunately, this myth keeps reappearing, typically originating in foreign countries.”
Lightning is not attracted to metal. While metal is a great conductor of electricity, it doesn’t draw lightning like a magnet.
Last month, when 23-year-old Bechelet Joseph was struck and killed by lightning in Boynton Beach, it was noted that he had just picked up a vehicle battery in a yard full of metal rods and tools. But Jensenius said that had “nothing at all” to do with the strike.
“Lightning is not attracted to anything,” he said. “I’ve seen various articles about batteries and screwdrivers, none of which had any effect.”
A large tree nearby was a more likely culprit in Joseph’s death as lightning tends to aim for the tallest object, which can conduct electricity to anyone standing nearby.