The Dangers of Lightning and What to Watch For

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Meridian, Miss. Lightning is one of the most mesmerizing and powerful natural forces on Earth, yet it is one of the most under-rated killers on this planet. A single bolt of lightning can exceed temperatures of 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit and well over 100 million volts of electricity, yet the chances of you being fatally injured or killed by lightning are very small.

"Most people you hear that are struck by lightning are actually struck by the step leader," Chief Meteorologist Brian Hutton Jr. say. "This is the electrical connection from you up into the sky, which the lightning bolt tries to connect to. Very few of those connect to people."

When it comes to lightning safety during storms, the key is to simply avoid being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Most lightning injuries and fatalities occur during the summer months when more people are prone to working outside, and afternoon storms are promising. The result a possible deadly or painful injury that could take months or years to recover from.

"Most lightning strikes are not deadly, however they can cause some severe wounds," says Metro Operations Manager Johnny Williams. "When lightning strikes it travels through your body and usually leaves an exit wound, which can be pretty severe. It also causes cardiac dysrhythmia."

Not only are cardiac problems a result of being struck by lightning, but most lightning survivors suffer from short-term memory loss, due to the cellular structure of the brain literally cooking in the 50,000 plus degree heat. So when it comes to lightning what's the best way to admire it, yet stay safe?

"The safest thing you can do in a thunderstorm is obviously get inside and stay away from doors and windows and to not be in showers and bathtubs when there is a thunderstorm outside," says Hutton. "That is the safest thing. If you are caught outside, don't get under a tree or a metal structure, anything like that. You want to get as close to the ground as you can."

It's best to remember if you can hear thunder, you are in danger of being struck.