Top 5 lightning strike myths, how to stay safe in a storm

Lightning’s bite is chilling in its randomness.

It covets neither metal — a persistent myth — or water, and can strike from a sun-filled sky as readily as when thunderclouds darken overhead.

Lightning strikes south of Belvedere Road near I-95 in West Palm Beach on July 9, 2009. (Thomas Cordy / The Palm Beach Post)
Lightning strikes south of Belvedere Road near I-95 in West Palm Beach on July 9, 2009. (Thomas Cordy / The Palm Beach Post)

It kills, then bellows, and in a three-week period it took the lives of  two Palm Beach County residents.

The death toll nationally is now 25, one more than the average for this time of year.

The most recent deaths include two people found in a cemetery after a morning storm.

Knowing the facts of lightning’s behavior can save lives.

For example, when 23-year-old Bechelet Joseph was struck Friday, it was noted that he had just picked up a vehicle battery in a yard full of metal rods and tools.

But National Weather Service lightning expert John 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 as lightning tends to aim for the tallest object, which can conduct electricity to anyone standing nearby.

With that in mind, here are the top 5 myths about lightning strikes. Knowing them, could save your life.

Myth: Lighting is attracted to metal objects

Fact: The presence of metal makes absolutely no difference where lightning strikes. Height, pointy shape and isolation are the dominant factors controlling where a lightning bolt strikes.



Myth: Rubber tires on a car protect you from lightning by insulating you from the ground.

Fact: A vehicle with a metal roof is usually a safe place during a lightning storm, but it is the roof and metal sides of the car, not the tires, that offer protection. Lighting striking a car will be conducted through the metal into the ground.


Myth: If it’s sunny with no clouds overhead, it is safe from lightning.

Fact: Lightning can strike up to 10 miles from the center of a thunderstorm, far outside the area of rain.


Myth: Lightning never strikes the same place twice.

Fact: Lighting often strikes the same place repeatedly, especially if it’s a tall, isolated object.


Myth: It is good to take shelter under a tree during a thunderstorm.

Fact: Trees, because they are tall and pointy, are more likely to be struck by lightning, which could impact anyone standing underneath of one. It’s often believed that golfers are struck the most by lightning, but that is also a myth. Most people killed by lightning during leisure activities are on or near the water.







Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s