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The five ways lightning can strike people in dramatic clips from National Weather Service

In severe weather conditions such as stormy weather, there is always potential for lightning strikes to occur. In order to stay as safe as possible in a storm the National Weather Service has created a series of cartoon clips to help demonstrate what to do in a weather emergency.

In Britain, lightning strikes the ground about 300,000 times a year, according to The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents. For a climber, fisher, walker or golfer, this is a risk that must be considered. Although there’s no “absolute protection” from lightning, measures can be taken to reduce the risk of getting struck and the injury severity.

The National Weather Service explains the five ways lighting strikes people include: A direct strike, side flash, ground current, conduction and streamers.

1) Direct Strike

These are not common but are the most deadly. This is when a person struck by lightning becomes part of the main lightning discharge channel and it occurs when victims are in open areas. The heat produced when lightning moves over the skin can produce burns, but the current moving through the body can be lethal.

2) Side Flash

This occurs when lightning strikes a taller object near the victim and a portion of the current jumps from a taller object to the victim. The person essentially acts as a “short circuit” for some of the energy. If you are within a foot or two of the object struck this can occur – most often if you are taking shelter under a tree to avoid the rain.

3) Ground Current

Anyone outside near a lightning strike can be a victim of ground current. It can travel on garage floors with conductive materials. It affects a large area and also causes the most lightning deaths and injuries, including farm animals.

Typically, lightning enters the body at the contact point, travels through the body’s cardiovascular and nervous systems, and exits the body at the contact point furthest from lightning.

The greater the distance between the contact points, the greater the potential for a serious injury.

4) Conduction

Metal does not attract lightning, but it provides a path for the lightning to follow. Most indoor lightning casualties and some outdoor casualties are due to conduction.

Whether inside or outside, anyone in contact with anything connected to metal wires, plumbing, or metal surfaces that extend outside is at risk. This includes anything that plugs into an electrical outlet, sinks and showers, corded phones, and windows and doors.

5) Streamers

People caught in “streamers” are at risk of being killed or injured by lightning. Streamers develop as the downward-moving leader approaches the ground. Typically, only one of the streamers makes contact with the leader as it approaches the ground and provides the path for the bright return stroke.

However, when the main channel discharges, so do all the other streamers in the area. If a person is part of one of these streamers, they could be killed or injured during the streamer discharge even though the lightning channel was not completed between the cloud and the upward streamer.

If you witness an injury because of a lightning strike you must call for immediate medical attention. Calling 999, starting CPR, and using an AED are critically important to keep the person alive until advanced medical care arrives.

For more information on safety during a storm, visit the National Weather Service for further details on lightning strikes.



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