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.
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Knowing the facts of lightning’s behavior can save lives.
When 23-year-old Bechelet Joseph was struck last year, it was noted that he had just picked up a vehicle battery in a yard full of metal rods and tools.
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.