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Bob’s Meanderings: Struck by Lightning


All the recent rainstorms recently with their loud peels of thunder and flares of lightning made me wonder what would happen to a person struck by the lightning. Would it be life threatening for someone taking a direct hit?

I did read somewhere that a person that is struck by lightning becomes a part of the main lightning discharge channel, most often to victims are in open areas. Direct strikes are not as common as other strikes, but they are potentially the deadliest.

In most direct strikes, a portion of the current moves along and just over the skin surface (called flashover) and a portion moves through the body. The ability to recover from an injury is related to immediate medical attention.

Movie actress Sharon Stone had a “really intense” feeling of being struck by lightning once. She was on a break period at home from acting in a movie. In the kitchen with her hand on the sink faucet, she got struck. The lightning came up through the water piping. Its force sending her soaring across the kitchen, crashing into the refrigerator.

Fortunately, her mother was there and able to slap her into consciousness. Stone was rushed to the hospital where she had an EKG that showed that electricity had flowed through her body.

She said afterwards, “I was tremendously lucky to be alive, to be able to walk and talk, let alone regain the full capability of my body.”
“Struck by lightning’ is often used as a metaphor for serious accidents or near catastrophes. My sister had an horrific accident recently. Crossing a highway on a green light at the same time a transport was running a red one. Her car was nearly fractured in two ending in a deep ditch. The first thing she recalled after coming out of shock was a good-looking fireman trying to get her attention. She had no broken bones but had multiple scrapes and swellings, from which is still recovering.

My brother as a teenager had a close call. He was on the family snowmobile crossing open fields on an overcast afternoon. Not noticing the imminent barbed wire fence, it caught him on the top of his helmet, knocking him to the ground. He didn’t let on to anyone for a week, fearing he would get his knuckles rapped.

My cousin Dave when he was golf champ at the Prescott Golf Club took his new girlfriend to the course one day to impress her. While he was demonstrating his swing, she moved in a little too close and was walloped across the jaw – shattering it. There were ramifications over that incident for quite a while.

Years prior to that, while in public school, a similar accident occurred during a game of ball at recess. My swing of the bat caught a classmate on her jaw. Not the misfortune as my cousin had, the girl recovered rather quickly. Later that year in wintertime, she threw me into a snowbank and kissed me (my first). I was too dazed to respond before left me there stranded.

The principle lightning safety guideline is the 30-30 rule. The first “30” represents 30 seconds. If the time between when you see the flash and hear the thunder is 30 seconds or less, the lightning is close enough to hit you. Seek shelter immediately. The second “30” stands for 30 minutes. After the last flash of lightning, wait 30 minutes before leaving your shelter. More than one half of lightning deaths occur after a thunderstorm has passed.

The old-fashioned handed-down way of telling how close you are to a lightning strike is to count the seconds between seeing the flash and hearing the thunder. For every five seconds you count, the lightning is one mile away. If you see a flash and instantly hear the thunder, the lightning strike is awfully close. Take shelter immediately.

Stay out of the shower whether alone or not during a thunderstorm. The electrical charge often travels along and through the plumbing.

I have always been obsessed to witness a thunder and lighting storm from the porch – the bigger the better. I haven’t been struck yet, but I have seen a few trees toppled nearby as well as a blue spruce in our own yard.