Lightning strikes are wondrous sites to see, but they can also be deadly. With a power of 300 kilovolts, lightning can heat the air up to 50,000 degrees
Fahrenheit. This combination of power and heat can cause serious damage to the human
body. Being struck by lightning may lead to burns, rupturing of the eardrum, eye damage, cardiac arrest, and respiratory arrest. While about 10 percent of
lightning strike victims are killed, many of the 90 percent that survives are left with lasting complications..
5 Ways Lightning Can Strike You
Lightning is a result of the build-up of electrostatic charge in clouds. The top of the cloud
typically becomes positively charged and the bottom of the cloud becomes negatively charged. As the separation of charges increases, the negative charges may jump toward the positive charges in the
cloud or toward positive ions in the ground. When this happens, a lightning strike occurs. There are typically five ways in which lightning may strike a person. Any type of lightning strike
should be taken seriously and medical attention should be sought if a person is thought to have been struck by lightning.
- 1,Direct Strike: Of the five ways in which lightning can strike individuals, a direct strike is the least common. In a direct strike, the lightning current moves directly through the body. This type
of strike is the most deadly because part of the current moves over the skin,
while other portions typically move through the cardiovascular
system and nervous
system. The heat generated by the lightning causes burns on the skin and the current can damage vital organs such as the heart and brain.
- 2 Side Flash: This
type of strike occurs when lightning contacts a nearby object and part of the current jumps from the object to a person. The person is typically in close proximity to the object that has been struck,
about one to two feet away. This type of strike often occurs when a person is seeking shelter under tall objects, such as a tree.
- 3 Ground Current: This type of strike occurs when lightning strikes an object, like a tree, and part of the current travels along the ground and strikes a person. Ground current strikes cause
the most lightning strike-related deaths and injuries. As the current comes in contact with a person, it enters the body at a point closest to the current and exits at a contact point furtherest away
from the lightning. As the current travels through the body, it can cause extensive damage to the body's cardiovascular and nervous
systems. Ground current may travel through any type of conductive material, including garage floors.
- 4 Conduction: Conduction lightning strikes occur when lightning travels through conductive objects, like metal wires or plumbing, to strike a person. Although metal does not attract lightning, it
is a good conductor of electrical current. Most indoor lightning strikes occur as a result of conduction. People should stay away from conductive objects, such as windows, doors, and objects
connected to electrical outlets during storms.
- 5 Streamers: Before a lightning current forms, the negatively charged particles at the bottom of a cloud are attracted to the positively charged ground and positive streamers in particular.
Positive streamers are positive ions that extend upward from the
ground. The negatively charged ions, also called step leaders, create
an electric field as they move toward the ground. When the positive streamers extend toward the negative ions and make contact with a step leader, lightning strikes. Once a lightning strike has
occurred, other streamers in the area discharge. Streamers can extend from things such as the ground surface, a tree, or a person. If a person is involved as one of the streamers that discharge after
a lightning strike has occurred, that individual could be seriously injured or killed. Streamer strikes are not as common as the other types of strikes.
- Consequences of Being Struck by Lightning
consequences resulting from a lightning strike vary and depend on the type of strike and the amount of current traveling through the body.
can cause burns to the skin, deep wounds,
and tissue damage. The electrical current can also cause a type of scaring known as Lichtenberg
figures (branching electric discharges). This type of scaring is characterized by unusual fractal patterns that
develop as a result of blood vessel destruction that happens as the lightning current travels through the body.
arrest can occur as a lightning strike can cause the heart to stop. It may also cause arrhythmias and pulmonary edema (fluid accumulation in the lungs).Lightning strikes may cause a number of
neurological conditions and brain damage. A person may slip into a coma, experience pain and numbness or weakness in limbs, suffer from spinal cord injuries, or develop sleep and memory
disorders.A lightning strike may cause damage to the ear and hearing loss. It may also cause vertigo, corneal damage, and blindness.The sheer force of being hit by a lightning strike can
cause clothing and shoes to be blown off, singed, or shredded. This type of trauma can also cause internal bleeding and can
sometimes result in broken bones.