Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Lightning

At a glance

Have a question about lightning? Check out our frequently asked questions and answers (FAQ) below.

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General information

How can I protect myself from a lightning strike?

Be prepared. Check the weather before participating in outdoor activities. If thunderstorms are forecast, change plans or ensure that a safe shelter is nearby.

If inside during a thunderstorm, do the following:

  • Stay off corded phones. Cell phones and cordless phones are okay.
  • Do NOT use anything connected to an electrical outlet, such as computers or other electronic equipment.
  • Stay out of the shower and away from other plumbing. This includes washing dishes.
  • Stay away from windows and doors.

If outside during a thunderstorm, do the following:

  • Seek shelter immediately.
  • Do NOT lie on the ground or shelter under a tree.
  • If no shelter is nearby, crouch down into a ball-like position with your head tucked and hands over your ears and your feet closely together

What is considered a safe shelter during a lightning storm?

A safe shelter is a fully enclosed vehicle or a shelter that has four walls and a roof. Examples of safe shelters include homes, offices, shopping centers, and hard-top vehicles with the windows rolled up. Open vehicles (such as convertibles, golf carts, and motorcycles) and open structures (such as porches, gazebos, baseball dugouts, and sports arenas) are NOT safe during a storm.

Can I get struck by lightning if there is no rain?

Yes. Even if you don’t see rain, you could still be at risk for a lightning strike. Lightning often strikes outside areas of heavy rain and can strike as far as 10 miles away from any rainfall. Many lightning deaths occur ahead of storms or after storms seemingly have passed. Remember, if you can hear thunder, you might be in danger of a lightning strike.

Does lightning ever strike the same place twice?

Yes. Lightning can strike the same place twice. In fact, lightning often strikes the same place repeatedly, especially a tall, pointy, isolated object. For example, the Empire State Building is hit by lightning about 23 times a year.

Indoor lightning safety

What should I do if I am inside during a thunderstorm?

To stay safe inside a building, do the following:

  • Stay away from electrical equipment or cords, including corded phones.
  • Avoid plumbing; do NOT wash your hands, take a shower, or wash dishes.
  • Stay away from windows and doors, and stay off porches and balconies.
  • Do NOT lie down on concrete floors or lean against concrete walls.

Is it safe to take a shower or bath during a thunderstorm?

No. Lightning can travel through plumbing. It is best to avoid all water during a thunderstorm. Do not shower, bathe, wash dishes, or wash your hands. The risk of lightning travelling through plumbing might be less with plastic pipes than with metal pipes. However, it is best to avoid any contact with plumbing and running water during a lightning storm to reduce your risk of being struck.

Are cell phones and cordless phones safe to use during a thunderstorm?

Yes. Cell phones and cordless phones are safe to use during a thunderstorm if they are not connected to an outlet through a charger. Do not use corded phones.

Outdoor lightning safety

What should I do if I am caught outside during a thunderstorm?

Do NOT lie on the ground. Lightning causes electric currents along the top of the ground that can be deadly more than 100 feet away. Get inside a safe location; no place outside is safe. Avoid anything that will increase your risk of being struck by lightning, such as being near or under tall trees. If there are no safe shelters in sight, crouch down in a ball-like position: put your feet together, squat low, tuck your head, and cover your ears. But remember, this is a last resort. Seek safe shelter first.

Is it safe to be under a tree during a lightning storm?

No. Being underneath trees is the second leading cause for lightning deaths.

Risk of being struck by lightning

What is my risk of being struck by lightning?

The odds of being struck by lightning in a given year is less than one in a million. You might have a higher risk if you work outside or live in certain parts of the country, such as Florida or Texas.

Who is at greatest risks for lightning strikes?

Males are four times more likely than females to be struck by lightning. Most lightning strike victims are people who regularly participate in outdoor recreation activities or work outside. Construction and farming are the two most common occupations for victims of lightning strikes. Regional and seasonal differences and time of day and year affect the risk of lightning injury (see Lightning Strike Victim Data). For instance, most lightning strikes occur in the summer months, especially July, during the afternoon and evening. Also, southeastern states are particularly at risk, with Florida and Texas having the largest number of lightning-related deaths.

Lightning strike injuries

Is it safe to touch somebody who was struck by lightning?

Yes. Lightning victims DO NOT carry an electrical charge and you will NOT be electrocuted by touching someone who has been struck. It is safe to touch a lightning victim and administer first aid immediately.

What should I do if I see someone get struck by lightning?

Immediately call 911 for help. It is safe to touch a lightning victim and administer first aid immediately.

How many people are injured from lightning strikes each year in the United States?

Lightning strike injuries are not well documented. However, it is estimated that about 180 people are injured each year due to lightning.

How many people die from lightning strikes each year in the United States?

About 10% of people struck by lightning die. From 2006 through 2021, lightning caused an average of 28 deaths per year.

What happens to the body as a result of a lightning strike?

About 10% of people struck by lightning die, most commonly because of a heart attack. Other lightning injuries include blunt trauma, neurological syndromes that are usually temporary, muscle injuries, eye injuries (“lightning-induced cataract”), skin lesions, and burns.

How does lightning cause injuries?

Lightning can cause injuries in several ways:

  • Direct strike: A direct strike is often fatal.
  • Contact injury: Lightning strikes an object, such as a car or metal pole, that the victim is touching.
  • Side flash: Lightning splashes or bounces off an object, such as a tree or person, onto the victim.
  • Ground current: Lightning strikes the ground near a victim and the ground current passes from the strike point through the ground and into the victim.
  • Streamer: When the air is charged with electricity during a lightning storm, bursts of energy, or streamers, can come upward from objects near the ground. Sometimes these streamers travel upwards through people, causing harm.
  • Blast injury: The lightning's blast effect and sound might directly cause injury, such as ruptured eardrums, or might cause the person to fall or be thrown against an object.