Lightning safety: How close do you have to be to get struck?

Published: Tuesday, August 02, 2016 @ 6:39 AM
Updated: Tuesday, April 11, 2017 @ 10:28 AM

Each year in the United States, lightning strikes an average of 300 people. 

A direct hit by a bolt of lightning kills about 50 people per year. Those who survive a lightning strike – with temperatures that can heat the surrounding air to 50,000 Fahrenheit  – often suffer permanent injuries to the brain, heart or other parts of the body.

While most will try to seek shelter if a thunderstorm is near, sometimes there is little warning that lightning is in the area. What many people fail to realize is that you don’t have to be that near a storm to be struck by the lightning that accompanies it.

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Here are some facts about lightning and how close you have to be from its source in order to be struck.

First, what is lightning, exactly?

Lightning results from the action of rising and descending air within a thunderstorm as it separates positive and negative charges that are present in the atmosphere. The buildup and discharge of electrical energy between those positively charged and the negatively charged areas create lightning. Lightning goes three ways – between clouds, from cloud to ground, or from ground to cloud. 

What are my chances of being hit?

If you live to be 80, your chances are about 1 in 3,000.

Is it true I can be hit by a lightning bolt even if there is no storm near?

Yes, it is. What happens is this: A so-called bolt out of the blue (lightning on a clear, blue sky day) is actually a cloud-to-ground flash that occurs out of the backside of a thunderstorm cloud, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. That lightning bolt can travel a great distance – up to 25 miles – from the storm cloud. The bolt then angles down to the ground. What makes them especially dangerous is that they do seem to come out of the blue sky, and people are not looking out for lightning if there is no storm visible.

How often does lightning strike and how powerful is it?

We mentioned before your chances of being struck are 1 in 3,000 if you live for 80 years. As a one-time shot at being hit, your chances are about 1 in 240,000. There are 25 million lightning strikes in the United States each year. A typical lightning bolt contains around 15 million volts of electricity.

How do I know when it is time to go inside if a storm is near?

If you can hear thunder, you are close enough to be struck by lightning. Thunder is not possible without lightning since it is caused by lightning. Thunder results from the heated air a lightning bolt creates. The heating of the air (around 50,000 degrees in the “channel,” or path, lightning creates) causes high pressure, which, in turn, compresses the air nearby causing a disturbance and pushing it out in all directions. The disturbance creates a shock wave that becomes a sound wave. That’s what you hear as thunder. It seems to rumble because the process is repeated the length of the “channel.”

I’m inside the house, so, not a problem, right?

Lightning really doesn’t care if you are inside or not. If it hits your house you can be injured. Best practices when lightning is around:

  • Avoid using the telephone or electrical appliances
  • Stay out of the shower or bath – the pipes can conduct lightning
  • Don’t look out the windows or doors – they have metal in the frames  that can attract lightning

What’s wrong with seeking shelter under a tree?

Lightning, generally, will strike the highest structure around. However, you don’t want to be under something lightning strikes. (Remember, that’s a general rule of thumb, not an absolute. Lightning can hit anything.)

But if I have rubber sole shoes on and I’m sitting in my car, I’m good, right?

Ok, forget about the rubber sole shoes, you may as well be wearing aluminum foil as far as the protection you’ll get. And while we have been told that the wheels on a car divert lightning, that’s not exactly true. What will protect you, to some degree, is the steel frame of your car (sorry convertible owners). While it won’t prevent injury, it can provide some protection as long as you are not touching metal in the car.

When am I most likely to be stuck by lightning?

Most lightning strikes happen in the summer when atmospheric conditions make for thunderstorms. Of the 21 lightning deaths in the United States so far this year, 12 happened in July.

The place that receives the most cloud-to-ground lightning is Florida, specifically between Tampa and Orlando. That is the place where lightning is most active, but lightning is also found everywhere else in the United States.

So what should I do if lightning threatens?

Remember this slogan from the National Weather Service:

“When thunder roars, go indoors!” There are about 300 documented injuries from lightning each year.

How can I stay safe from lightning?

Check out NOAA's National Weather Service for more information on indoor and outdoor lightning safety and lightning risks.

 Oh, and, lightning can strike twice in the same place. Save your money on that bet.

Sources: The National Severe Storms Library; NOAA; The National  Weather Service

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Couple has celebrated each wedding anniversary at Burger King for 50 years

Published: Sunday, June 24, 2018 @ 11:48 PM

File photo. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
File photo. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)(Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

A couple celebrated their golden anniversary, as they have 49 others, at Burger King. 

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Lloyd and Sandy Howard’s tradition started innocuously. The couple was running late for a movie in New York on their first wedding anniversary and stopped at the restaurant for something quick to eat -- a couple of flame-broiled Whoppers, according to WPIX.

“And we decided that, every year afterwards, no matter where we were, we were going to go to a Burger King, even if it meant just having a drink or an ice cream, just to say that we went to Burger King,” Sandy Howard told WPIX

The couple, who wed on June 22, 1968, celebrated their 50th anniversary with their children and grandchildren at a Matawan Burger King. 

And their plans for their 51st anniversary? 

“Probably the same thing,” Sandy said. “Go to Burger King.”

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Thief fails three-point-turn, flees after he can’t get truck out of driveway

Published: Sunday, June 24, 2018 @ 10:40 PM

A thief failed to steal a truck when he could not complete a three-point turn. (Photo: Screengrab via Bensalem Police/YouTube)
A thief failed to steal a truck when he could not complete a three-point turn. (Photo: Screengrab via Bensalem Police/YouTube)

A thief failed to steal a truck because he could not complete a three-point turn to get around another vehicle in a driveway and then fled the scene, surveillance video shows

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Video posted by the Bensalem Police Department shows a man trying to steal the unlocked truck early Wednesday morning. 

The man, who appears to be in his 20s, tries unsuccessfully to reverse, nearly hitting another vehicle parked in the driveway multiple times. Eventually, he gives up and flees the scene.

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WATCH: 'Permit Patty' appears to call police on girl selling bottled water in viral video

Published: Sunday, June 24, 2018 @ 9:00 AM

File photo of bottled water. A white woman who appeared to call the police on a biracial San Francisco girl selling bottled water to raise money for a Disneyland trip has gone viral, sparking the hashtag #PermitPatty.
denvit / Pixabay.com
File photo of bottled water. A white woman who appeared to call the police on a biracial San Francisco girl selling bottled water to raise money for a Disneyland trip has gone viral, sparking the hashtag #PermitPatty.(denvit / Pixabay.com)

A white woman who appeared to call the police on a biracial girl selling bottled water to raise money for a Disneyland trip has gone viral, sparking the hashtag #PermitPatty.

>> Huge cookout held at Oakland park where cops called on black family's barbecue

According to USA Today, the girl's mother, Erin Austin, captured the alleged phone call on video, which has been viewed millions of times since it was posted Saturday. She said the incident occurred outside her apartment near AT&T Stadium in San Francisco.

"This woman don't want to let a little girl sell some water," Austin says in the 15-second clip, focusing the camera on a woman holding a phone. "She's calling the police on a 8-year-old little girl."

As the woman, identified by HuffPost as Alison Ettel, crouches behind a concrete wall, Austin adds: "You can hide all you want; the whole world's gonna see you, boo."

"And illegally selling water without a permit? Yeah," Ettel says, pointing to her phone.

"On my property," Austin interjects.

"It's not your property," Ettel replies.

>> Watch the video here

Austin and the girl's cousin, Raje Leeshared the footage with the hashtag #PermitPatty, USA Today reported.

"Make this [expletive] go viral like #bbqbecky," Austin captioned the video, referring to the hashtag used after a different woman was recorded calling the police on a black family for using a charcoal grill at an Oakland park. "She's #permitpatty."

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The posts sparked a debate about whether Ettel's actions were racist.

"For all of you saying it's not about race why didn't she stop to harass the white [men] that [were] selling tickets and teeshirts but thought calling the police on a child was okay?" Lee tweeted. "Don't answer. Just ask yourself that."

>> See the tweet here

"I didn't think in San Francisco my biracial child would have to go through something like this," Austin told KNTV.

Ettel told HuffPost that race had nothing to do with it, adding that she didn't really call the police. 

"They were screaming about what they were selling," Ettel said, claiming she had no problem with the girl, only Austin. "It was literally nonstop."

She added: "I completely regret that I handled that so poorly. It was completely stress-related, and I should have never confronted her."

The drama seemed to have a happy ending for Austin's daughter, who received four free tickets to Disneyland from a Twitter user who saw the video, Lee tweeted.

>> See the tweet here

Read more here or here.

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5 arrested for murder of New York teen who was hacked to death with machete

Published: Sunday, June 24, 2018 @ 8:19 PM

Lesandro Guzman-Feliz was attacked and brutally murdered Wednesday. (Photo: NYPD)
Lesandro Guzman-Feliz was attacked and brutally murdered Wednesday. (Photo: NYPD)

Police arrested five people Sunday in connection with a brutal machete attack on a teen outside a Bronx bodega earlier in the week. 

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Lesandro Guzman-Feliz, 15, was pulled out of the Cruz and Chiky grocery Wednesday by members of the Dominican gang Trinitarios, who beat him, hacked him with a machete and left him to die on the sidewalk outside the store in what officials believe was a case of mistaken identity, according to the New York Post

Gang members wrongly believed Guzman-Feliz was in a revenge sex video posted online that featured a relative of one of the attackers, according to the Post

A leader of the gang later apologized on Facebook for the mistake, according to WPIX

The teen’s mother said her son was a good boy who had never been in a gang. He was a member of the NYPD Explorers Program for Youth and dreamed of one day becoming a detective, Leandra Feliz told the Post

“Since he was 5 years old, he told me, ‘Mommy, I want to be a police,’” she said. 

The identities of the suspects have not yet been released.

GoFundMe account, set up to help the family pay for funeral expenses and other costs has raised more than $125,000 as of Sunday evening.

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