What Happens When You're Struck By Lightning?

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Getting stuck by lightning is rough. It can burn hotter than the sun, scar your body, and even blow off your clothes. Even worse, it kills about 47 Americans per year. Although 90% of those struck survive, it's still worth knowing how to avoid getting a heavy dose of sky electricity.

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Following is the transcript of the video:

Contrary to popular belief, lightning strikes aren’t always a death sentence. In fact, about 90 percent of people in the US who are struck actually survive.

Still, victims rarely walk away unscathed, and the damage can be permanent.

Lightning triggers 75,000 forest fires in the US each year and can split entire trees down the middle in a split second.

So it’s frightening to imagine what it does inside a human body.

The good news is that you won’t get cooked Wile E Coyote-style, but it can still do damage.

For starters, lightning carries between 1 to 10 billion joules of energy — enough to power a 100-watt bulb for at least 3 months. When that amount of electricity enters your body,  it short-circuits the small electrical signals that run your heart, lungs, and nervous system.

This can lead to cardiac arrest, seizures, brain injury, spinal cord damage, and even amnesia.

But electricity isn’t your only problem. Lightning is blisteringly hot. In under a second, it can heat the surrounding air to temperatures 5X hotter than the sun’s surface.

This causes a rapid expansion of air, which leads to a shock wave that we hear as thunder.

It has been calculated that someone standing within 30 feet of a lightning strike point can experience a blast wave equivalent to a 5kg TNT bomb (Blumenthal).

The intense heat, light, and electricity can also damage your eyes. In fact, it can bore holes in your retina and can cause cataracts within days or weeks.

Other side-effects of lightning can include impotence in men and overall decreased libido. That’s just what happens on the inside!

As the lightning moves toward the surface, it can force red blood cells out of your capillaries, into your epidermis….like a bruise. These intricate designs are called Lichtenberg figures.

The intense temperatures can also heat up any metal you might be wearing, causing third-degree burns and can also rapidly vaporize the rainwater or sweat on your skin. The resulting steam explosion may blow off your clothes and shoes leaving you nearly naked!

On average 47 people in the US are killed by lightning each year. So, you might be wondering, “How do I make sure I’m not that guy?”

For starters, check weather forecasts ahead of time, and stay indoors during a storm. But if you’re stuck outside, avoid isolated trees, poles, and open fields, and run as fast as you can towards safety.

You’re best off in a developed building or a hard-topped metal vehicle. So stay calm and just remember: “When thunder roars go indoors!”
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Science & Technology

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