Safety from the Sparks

"Lightning is one of the biggest killers of people. Any thunderstorm, has lightning. And so if thunder roars, go indoors," explains Mark Pellerito, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Binghamton.  

With summer now upon us, The National Weather Service (NWS) begins it's Lightning Safety Awareness week.  

"So what is lightning, lightning is when there is an electrical imbalance between the storm cloud and the ground and it wants to equalize. Like if you rub your feet on the carpet in the winter, and you're building up a charge as soon as you touch something it discharges. Lightning is a thunderstorm discharging," Pellerito says.

In fact according to the National Weather Service, this discharge carries up to a Billion Volts! And it can and DOES strike the same thing twice.

"Lightning likes to carry through certain objects better than others. I'm talking metal, or even water itself or large trees," says Pellerito. 

Over half of lightning deaths occur with victims being outside in an open field, such as a golf course or ball park. Nearly a quarter of lightning deaths occur underneath trees.

Pellerito states, "Lightning wants to seek the most direct path from the cloud to the ground. If you are that tallest object you are basically inviting yourself to get struck. If your kids are outside playing ball in the middle of a wide open field, they ARE that tallest object. And lastly if you run under a tree a single solitary tree to take shelter from the storm you're basically standing right next to a lightning rod." 

While a tree is bad to hide in, a car is safer. The metal frame acts almost like a cage, to ground the charge. As long as you are not touching the car at the moment it is struck, you will be safe. The car also doesn't remain electrified.

In similar fashion a lightning rod can protect your home by providing a source to the ground that's not through the circuits of your home. Pellerito also says Surge protectors are also a handy investment too. .

The NWS also stresses that wearing or having metal on you, like jewelry or a cell phone, does NOT attract lightning. Height, a pointy shape and isolation from other objects are the main lightning attractors.

Lightning General Info:

NWS Lightning Safety Awareness Week:

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