Ask Ellen: Can you really get struck by lightning inside?

Ask Ellen

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — This week has been absolutely packed with storms for West Michigan. More than 200,000 have had their power knocked out and the lightning count has been incredible.

In fact, Chris Vagasky, a lightning specialist with Vaisala, reports that Michigan saw 25% of its yearly lightning in just 36 hours because of these storms. That’s a massive amount of lightning.

Aug. 11, 2021 now stands as having one of the highest 24-hour totals for Michigan out of the 30 years of records.

SO, CAN YOU GET STRUCK INSIDE?

The short answer? Yes. In fact the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that about one-third of all lightning-strike injuries occurred inside!

An example of this is a report that came in from Tennessee this July of a man who got struck by lightning through his video game controller!

Courtesy NWS

If you are inside, you are mostly safe from strikes, but some places and objects still could conduct electricity. In fact, according to the CDC, indoor lightning-strike injuries account for one-third of all lightning injuries!

Standing under a pavilion with a concrete slab is also unsafe.

FOUR WAYS LIGHTNING CAN STRIKE YOU

There are four primary ways that lightning can strike you:

  1. Direct strike: The first is the most obvious — it is a direct strike.

This happens when a bolt of lightning strikes directly from the cloud to a person on the ground. This is often fatal, or can lead to permanent physical or mental disabilities.

2. Side strike: This happens when lightning hits a tall object nearby. But on its journey to the ground, it hops to other objects or even humans.

These can be fatal or result in permanent injury. It can be hard to tell a strike was a side strike until looking at the impact damage.

3. Ground current: This happens fairly frequently. Sometimes a ground current can kill a whole group of grazing animals at once.

When lightning hits the ground, it travels through it in a spiderweb of energy. If one of these bolts running through the ground hits you, you can be severely impacted.

4. Indirect strike: This is how people sitting inside are struck by lightning. This happens when a bolt of lightning hits something outside that is a good conductor, like pipes or electrical wires. The energy then can travel through those objects inside someone’s home resulting in a strike.

This is most common through wires, near windows or even through pipes. That’s why it is advised for people not to bathe or take a shower during a storm because water is also a good conductor of electricity!

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