The way someone is struck by lightning may also affect the kind of injuries they may suffer. Lightning strikes can be fatal or cause serious injuries, including cardiac arrest or damage to the nervous system. As well as the relatively superficial burns on the outside of someone’s body, electricity that enters the body can cause devastating neurological damage, including memory loss, chronic pain, and seizures. A lightning strike kills about ten percent of the people struck. According to the experts, the chances of being struck by lightning are one in 15,300 in your lifetime (defined as 80 years). If lightning is a potential threat in your area, stay vigilant and take appropriate safety precautions to keep that risk low.
Lightning strikes can pose a danger to a person based on a number of factors, such as where they are when the strike occurs, the objects they are holding, or even the amount of water on their skin. Lightning strikes someone’s skin, causing most of the current to flash across the surface, while only a small portion of the current penetrates the body. Lightning experts say that not all of the energy can be transferred through a person. It’s like taking a bucket of water and trying to pour it through a straw in three seconds.
Direct Strike – The most unlikely way to be struck by lightning is to be directly hit by a bolt and become part of the main flow of electricity from the cloud to the ground. Lightning strikes of this type tend to happen in open spaces. Some believe direct lightning strikes are more dangerous than other forms of lightning strikes; however, there is no data about lightning deaths and injuries following different types of lightning strikes to support such claims.
Ground Current – Anyone near the lightning strike is at risk of shock from ground current, the electricity that flows through the ground away from the strike point. Lightning strikes caused by ground currents cause approximately half of all lightning-related injuries and deaths. Despite not knowing exactly how far a person must be from the point of the strike to be safe from ground currents, he suspects that the further away they are, the safer they will be. Lightning may strike moist soil in an even line and may strike dry, non-conductive soil in a jagged line. Large swathes of land can be damaged by ground currents.
Side Flash – Lightning causes side flashes when it strikes an object, like a tree or pole, and the current jumps out to strike a person nearby. Under a tree, people usually take shelter from a storm when they experience side flashes. As the electrical current takes longer to pass through the body, side flashes can cause deeper burns than direct strikes. In direct contact with the body, the current penetrates deeper and is more potent.
Conduction – The biggest risk to people who are inside is conducted lightning, which travels through metal surfaces like wires, plumbing, water faucets, windows and doors. The garage floor is typically made of concrete, a somewhat conductive material, and reinforced with wires or rebars, which is why people are often at risk of electrical shock while in their garages.
Streamer – Thunderstorms are caused when a negatively charged stepped leader, an electrical channel, zigzags down to the ground before encountering a positively charged streamer moving upward. Lightning is produced by the current flowing between the two and the multiple return strokes flowing between them. Streamers pose a serious danger to people caught in them.