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Lightning: No way to stay safe outdoors

Lightning expert says most "protections" are myths
Posted at 6:38 PM, Jul 06, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-06 21:38:23-04
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - Lightning struck more than 700 thousand times in Arizona last year.  It killed three people.  One was walking, one waited under a tree, another was hiking the Grand Canyon.
     
How can you stay safe from one of the most powerful forces in nature?  KGUN9 On Your Side has some advice from a lightning expert
     
You don't even have to have a storm right on top of you to be in danger from lightning.
 
Lightning can strike sideways from storms ten or fifteen miles away.
 
At the Tucson offices of Vaisala, Ron Holle can use the company's sensors to see where lightning is striking anywhere on Earth.
       
He says no place is safe outdoors.  Head for the biggest building you can.
 
"It will take a strike to a building, go down through the wiring and plumbing and by code that wiring and plumbing is grounded and will go down into the ground and safely go around the person inside."
       
A demonstration from the Boston Museum of Science shows what science buffs know as a Faraday Cage.
       
The cage is blasted by huge bolts of electricity but as long as he doesn't touch the metal, the electricity will not reach the man inside. That's why a metal roofed car can be good protection.
        
Video from Bishop Gorman School in Tyler, Texas shows why you don't want to be under a tree.  If the strike doesn't get you the sharp splinters might.  You're not hearing it because the surveillance video did not record sound.
 
Here's why you can't really say, “Oh, I'll be safe because I'm not the tallest thing in the area.  The lightning might not hit you from above at all.  Here's how: A lot of times the lightning will strike the ground and spread out like this water and you'll actually be struck through your feet.
 Ron Holle says, "And what's you're wearing on your feet has no relevance.  A little bit of plastic or foam on your feet is irrelevant.  This is a really massive electrical thing."
        
So the list of safety tips is short.  Ignore the myths.  Get inside.