Lightning strikes are a natural phenomenon that can be both terrifying and deadly.
While the chances of being struck by lightning are relatively low, it's important to understand how to increase your chances of survival if you do find yourself in such a situation.
Understanding the Odds
The odds of being struck by lightning in the United States are quite rare, estimated to be around 1 in 1.2 million in any given year.
Over a lifetime, assuming you live to 80, the odds increase to about 1 in 15,300 according to the US National Weather Service. While these odds are relatively low, it's essential to be prepared and know what to do in the event of a lightning strike.
The Surprising Survival Rate
Believe it or not, people have survived direct lightning strikes to the head. Despite the severity of such an incident, the overall survival rate from lightning strikes is between 70 and 90 percent. This high survival rate raises the question:
How do people manage to survive such a catastrophic event?
The Role of Water
According to a recent study, researchers have found that the presence of water on the skin may increase the chances of survival from a direct lightning strike to the head. The study suggests that a surface flashover, which is a discharge path along the outer skin, may play a significant role in protecting the body from the full impact of the lightning strike.
To test their hypothesis, the researchers created human head "phantoms" and subjected them to high-voltage electric charges. They compared the effects of the charges on a dry head versus a head that had been sprayed with a lightly salty solution to mimic rainwater.
The results were intriguing.
The Wet Head Advantage
The experiments revealed that the wet head had better lightning strike protective behavior compared to the dry head.
While most of the electric current traveled across the outer surface of both phantom heads, there were notable differences in how much current penetrated the layers of the head.
The wet head experienced a lower average electrical current and absorbed less energy compared to the dry head.
Further analysis of the phantom heads showed that the dry heads suffered more significant damage compared to the wet heads. This suggests that the presence of water on the skin during a lightning strike may help divert the electrical current away from vital organs, reducing the severity of injuries.
Limitations and Further Research
It's important to note that this study had some limitations.
The phantoms used did not have hair or other headwear, and real lightning strikes would produce higher amplitudes. However, these initial findings provide a basis for further research into the protective effects of rain-wet skin during lightning strikes.
While it may be intriguing to consider the potential advantages of wet skin during a lightning strike, it's crucial to prioritize safety and take appropriate precautions. If you find yourself in a thunderstorm, the best course of action is to seek shelter indoors or in a fully enclosed metal vehicle. Avoid open areas, tall structures, and bodies of water.
Lightning Safety Tips
Here are some essential lightning safety tips to keep in mind:
- Seek shelter indoors or in a fully enclosed metal vehicle.
- Avoid open areas, tall structures, and bodies of water.
- If you are caught in an open area, crouch down low with your feet close together.
- Stay away from metal objects, including fences, power lines, and equipment.
- If you are indoors, avoid using landline phones, electrical appliances, and plumbing fixtures during a storm.
- Wait at least 30 minutes after the last observed lightning or thunder before resuming outdoor activities.
While surviving a direct lightning strike to the head is a rare occurrence, understanding the potential protective effects of wet skin may offer valuable insights into lightning safety.
Remember to prioritize safety by seeking shelter during thunderstorms and following lightning safety guidelines. By staying informed and prepared, you can minimize the risks associated with lightning strikes and increase your chances of staying safe.