by Hollie McAfee

Summer heat waves such as this week’s always make me think, “It’s time for a lightning safety blog.” I live on a big hill and love watching lightning storms, but I’ve developed a healthy respect for their power and danger.

This year I decided I would Google some interesting facts about lightning storms, and by far the most interesting to me was the phenomenon called a “bolt from the blue.” Lightning seemingly strikes out of nowhere, from a clear blue sky. It is actually coming from a storm cloud, but the cloud could be up to 10 miles away from where the lightning finally touches the ground. Instead of striking in a mostly downward direction, the lightning starts in a horizontal direction and continues for miles before finally hitting the ground or an object. I learned that if you can hear thunder, you are close enough to the center of the storm to be struck by lightning.

Here are some other interesting facts I learned:

  • The odds of being struck by lightning in your lifetime are 1 in 3,000.
  • Rubber shoes do not give protection from lightning strikes.
  • Lighting can – and often does – strike in the same place twice.
  • It is true that your hair may stand on end just before a lightning strike. This is due to the positive charges that rise up to meet a negatively charged “step leader,” creating a channel for lightning to meet the ground. If it’s stormy and your hair stands up, you’re in trouble!
  • In 2013, lightning strikes in the United States cost insurance companies $673 million, an average of $6,000 per claim.