10 Lightning Myths Debunked

Posted by Safeco June 25, 2015
Lightning Safety Tips

Hint: Hiding Under a Tree Won't Work

Here’s something true about lightning: Much, maybe most, of what you think you know about it is probably wrong.

Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Some of what we assume is true ("It never strikes twice … ") is based on faulty folk wisdom. Some ("Crouch for protection…") is old, discredited advice.

What follows are some of the most persistent myths about lightning, as well as some important lightning safety tips. These tips may come in handy soon – lightning strikes in the United States millions of times each year, mostly in the summer (although it can hit at any time of the year).

  1. Lightning never strikes the same place twice. Yes, it does. The best example is the Empire State Building, which once served as a lightning laboratory because it's hit multiple times each year.
  2. Lightning only strikes the tallest objects. Not always true. Lightning has been known to hit the ground instead of trees, cars instead of telephone poles and parking lots instead of buildings.
  3. Wearing metal attracts lightning. The presence of metal doesn't affect whether lightning strikes. Mountains and trees don't contain metal. However, metal does conduct electricity, so avoid metal fences, bleachers and the like during storms.
  4. If you don't see clouds or rain, you're safe. Strikes can occur miles away from a thunderstorm, far outside the rain or even the storm cloud.
  5. Staying inside will keep you safe. Indoors is safe as long as you avoid anything that conducts electricity. Avoid corded phones, appliances, wires, TV cables, plumbing, metal doors and windows.
  6. Rubber tires on a car insulate you from danger. Cars can be safe havens, but it's not the tires that protect you. It's the metal roof and sides, which divert the electrical charge. Don't lean on the doors during a storm.
  7. Touching a lightning victim will cause electrocution. A human body does not store electricity. It's perfectly safe to touch lightning victims to give them first aid.
  8. Take shelter under a tree in a thunderstorm. Under a tree is one of the worst places you can be. If lightning hits it, a "ground charge" could spread out in all directions.
  9. If trapped outside, lie flat on the ground. Remember the ground charge? Lying flat makes you more vulnerable to one.
  10. If you're caught outside, crouch down. Once recommended, the "lightning crouch" is no longer believed to be of much use in protecting you against injury. The best thing you can do in a storm is get inside or into a car.

Now that you know what to do during a lightning storm, do you know whether your insurance covers lightning damage? It’s worth checking in with your local insurance agent to find out.

For example, if lightning damages your car, you’re likely only covered if you have comprehensive coverage on your auto policy. As for your homeowners policy, you need enough dwelling coverage to completely rebuild your home, if needed, following a covered loss. Of course, every policy is different so be sure you know yours well.

Knowing the facts about staying safe in lightning and having the right insurance for your needs. They’re two sides of the same coin: Both help you weather the storm.


Additional Storm Safety Tips

Learn how to put together an emergency kit, stay safe in a power outage and check your property for storm damage, all from the Safeco blog.


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