Advice for Safety in Lightning

Advice for Safety in Lightning

Save Story
Leer en español

Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

This archived news story is available only for your personal, non-commercial use. Information in the story may be outdated or superseded by additional information. Reading or replaying the story in its archived form does not constitute a republication of the story.

Ed Yeates ReportingIf you think you've got a set formula for avoiding a lightning strike, think again! A Utah research meteorologist says there are really only two things you can do to be completely safe.

Lightning is fickle, often hitting things without rhyme or reason. That's why University of Utah research meteorologist Dr. James Steenburgh says much of what you hear is urban legend. For example, getting under small trees instead of large ones.

Dr. James Steenburgh, U of U Meteorology: "There's a tendency for lightning to strike the highest object but that's not set in stone. If you are above timberline, whether you’re moving or not, you’re equally likely to get hit by lightning.”

If you don't want to play Russian roulette with Nature only two things will keep you really safe.

Steenburgh: "Get in your car or get in your house and don't worry about all the other details of where it's going to strike."

Why a car, instead of under a tree? There's an old experiment with what is called the Faraday's cage. You sit in the middle of the cage while electricity flows around you. You're okay as long as you don't touch the metal.

Steenburgh: "So lightning will move around the skin of the automobile which is why occupants inside tend to be safe."

Also, as lightning survivors Dean Withrow and Al Baer told us about this same time last year, lightning can strike with no warning, no thunder, no static buildup on the hair on your head or arms.

Al Baer, Lightning Survivor: "The message I think both of us want to give people is that you don't get a warning. There were clouds moving up the mountain. Somehow it reminded me of the fog coming over the peaks of San Francisco -about as innocuous - and the next thing, we were down."

If you can't get to a car or a house, look around and seek out the lowest spot.

Once you find that low spot take the position say of a baseball catcher, crouching down on the balls of your feet, tucking in to minimize the target.

Steenburgh: "You're kind of standing on the balls of your feet so you have very little contact with the ground itself."

Remember, this catcher's stance. Don't lie flat on the ground in a prone position. And, Dr. Steenburgh says, set aside any metal objects like golf clubs or climbing and hiking tools.

Lightning is still the number one weather related killer in Utah.

Most recent Utah stories

Related topics



Get informative articles and interesting stories delivered to your inbox weekly. Subscribe to the Trending 5.
By subscribing, you acknowledge and agree to's Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

KSL Weather Forecast