Top 10 Myths About Lightning

We’ve all heard the saying ‘lightning never strikes the same place twice,’ right? This age old saying, along with other myths and old wives tales surrounding lightning, is not only misleading but could be dangerous as well. Let’s have a look at the top 10 myths about lightning and dispel those that are incorrect so you are best placed to keep yourself and your loved ones safe.

1. Myth: Lightning never strikes the same place twice.

Truth: This is probably the most well-known myth, and it is not true! Lightning can strike the same place twice. The Empire State Building can vouch for that – it is struck by lightning around 25 times a year – some say it’s more like 100 times a year.

2. Myth: If you touch someone who has been struck by lightning, you will get an electric shock.

Truth: This is false – the human body does not store electricity and it is perfectly safe – and essential – to give first aid to someone who has been struck by lightning.

3. Myth: You’re safe in a car because it has rubber tyres.

Truth: In fact, it’s the metal roof and metal sides that protect you, not the rubber tyres. For this reason, you are not safe in a convertible car, a farm or construction vehicle with an open cockpit, or a bicycle.

4. Myth: Jewellery attracts lightning.

Truth: Metal does not attract lightning, but it does conduct it. Don’t worry too much about your watch or smartphone in the event of a lightning storm, but do not touch or take shelter next to long metal objects such as railings, fences, or vehicles. The metal can conduct the electricity and electrocute you.

5. Myth: A train is made of metal; therefore it can conduct electricity and the passengers will be electrocuted by a lightning strike.

Truth: No need to worry – trains are extremely well grounded in the electrical sense, so a large current of electricity from lightning will usually flow through the train to the tracks and into the earth below. In addition, there are products such as rail transient barriers (RTB) and Triggered Spark Gap Surge Reduction Filters (TSG-SRF) which divert surges of high-energy to protect electrical systems and equipment.

6. Myth: If lightning strikes a train’s signal line, it could be dangerous for passengers.

Truth: Again, you are safe. Rail transient barrier products protect signalling equipment from surges and they are designed to ensure they do not pose a safety threat in the event of failure.

7. Myth: If there are no clouds, you won’t be hit by lightning.

Truth: Even if the rain clouds haven’t reached you, the lightning still can. Lightning can strike more than three miles away from the centre of the thunderstorm, so if there is lightning about, then seek shelter immediately.

8. Myth: You can shelter under a tree for protection in a storm.

Truth: Never shelter from lightning underneath a tree, no matter how wet you get from the rain. Tall, isolated objects are more likely to be struck by lightning. You can still be struck by lightning when you are beneath a tree. Also, the electricity can spread along the surface of the ground and reach you even if you are some distance away from it. You are much safer indoors.

9. Myth: You are completely safe if you are inside a house.

Truth: Being indoors is good when there is lightning, but you must also stay in an inside room, away from windows, and avoid touching anything that could conduct electricity. This includes electrical appliances, telephones with cords, plumbing, and window frames.

10. Myth: If you are caught in a lightning storm and have no way to find shelter, lie flat on the ground.

Truth: Remember that you are never safe outside in a thunderstorm. As a last resort, some say it is best to crouch on the ground rather than lie flat. Squat down as low as you can and tuck your head in – you are aiming to make yourself as low to the ground as possible and have the minimum amount of your body touching the ground.

Crucially though, remember distance from objects and proper shelter inside a house are the best things in a lightning storm.