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The chance of being struck by lightning is rare, however it does occasionally happen. What is more likely to happen during a summer storm is that lightning can strike an object that in turn can cause further damage or harm. By taking precautions during electrical storms you can avoid being harmed by both scenarios.


Lightning strikes can carry up 100 million volts of electricity and are caused by the discharge of static electricity that builds up between thunderclouds or thunderclouds and the ground. Any lightning strike has the potential to do real harm or even kill and should be taken seriously. The first sign of lightning is thunder, thunder is the sound produced by the explosive expansion of air due to the heat generated by a lightning strike. Anytime you hear thunder you know that lightning is nearby. Most of grew up learning that if you counted how many seconds it was between seeing lightning and the thunder clap it would tell you how far the lightning was; for example 5 seconds equaled 5 miles. Well we were a little mislead; since sound travels at approximately 340 metres per second, a 5 second count would mean that the lightning was around 1,700 metres away or 1 mile plus 90 metres, a lot closer than the five mile count we were taught. A good rule of thumb to adhere to is - if the thunder clap is heard in less than 30 seconds after seeing the lightning, you are in an area that has the potential for a strike and you should be taking precautions.


If you are outdoors, the first precaution is to seek appropriate shelter in a home or vehicle. If in a vehicle make sure you are not parked near large trees as they can topple over in large storms. Another hazard to look out for is power lines, if by chance they do fall across your vehicle stay in the vehicle, DO NOT get out on your own. Even if charged lines are on your car you will be safe as long as you stay within the vehicle, to exit safely the power has to be cut from the lines which requires the help of hydro crews. If shelter is not available, stay away from tall objects and seek low-lying ground. Boating and swimming are two activities that must be avoided during electrical storms, if you are in a boat go to land immediately and find shelter. Lightning strikes on the water can travel great distances from the point of contact so staying out of the water is your best defense. Wearing rubber boots will not save you from a lightning strike so staying out of streams and large puddles also applies.


If you witness a person being struck by lightning, use standard first-aid practices. They have received a massive electrical shock but do not carry any electrical charge so they are safe to handle. Victims of lightning strikes will often suffer from burns and shock but it is also possible that their heart and breathing may stop which will require CPR. Seek medical attention as soon as possible.

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