10 things you might not know about lightning storms

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FILE: Lightning strikes as a violent thunder storm approaches the area Aug. 16, 2004 in Ft. Myers, Florida. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

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UTAH (ABC4) – Parts of Utah are expected to see rain, gray skies, and thunderstorms Wednesday, bringing the possibility of some relief to the drought-stricken state.

Jagged streaks of lightning splitting the sky can be fun to watch, but lightning storms can be dangerous under certain circumstances.

Here are some interesting facts about lightning storms that you may not have heard before.

  1. Lightning is one of the leading causes of weather-related deaths, according to the CDC.

It kills more than 20 people in the United States each year, the National Weather Service says. Additionally, hundreds of people are severely injured each year from lightning.

2. You’re not necessarily safe indoors during a thunderstorm.

One-third of lightning injuries occur indoors, the CDC says. Lightning can travel indoors in a number of ways.

3. Lightning can travel through plumbing.

Therefore, it’s best to avoid showering, bathing, and washing dishes during a thunderstorm. The CDC recommends avoiding all contact with water.

4. Water acts as a conductor when struck by lightning.

If you see lightning or hear thunder, avoid swimming in any body of water. When lightning strikes a body of water, the water acts as a conductor and spreads, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. It can hit boats or anyone or anything near the water’s surface.

5. Using all types of electrical equipment during a thunderstorm can be dangerous.

Lightning can travel through electrical systems, including radio and television systems, according to the CDC.

6. Corded phones are not safe to use during a thunderstorm.

The CDC recommends using cordless or cellular phones instead, which are safe indoors during a storm.

7. Lying or leaning on concrete floors or walls during a thunderstorm can be dangerous.

Lightning can travel through metal wires or bars in concrete floors or walls.

8. If a lightning strike and thunder occur less than 30 seconds apart, it’s time to go indoors.

This is called part of the 30-30 rule. The rule also says that outdoor and other activities that could be dangerous during a thunderstorm should be suspended for 30 minutes following the last time you hear thunder.

9. If you’re stuck in an open area, an isolated tree is NOT good shelter.

Side flashes occur when lightning strikes a tall object and jumps to a person standing within a foot or two from the larger object, according to weather.gov. This can occur when someone is sheltering from weather under a tree.

The best thing to do when caught in an open area during a thunderstorm is to crouch close to the ground with your head tucked and ears covered. Remove yourself from any water bodies, conductors like power lines or metal fences, and elevated areas like hills or mountains.

10. Lightning strikes the United States roughly 25 million times each year, the National Weather Service says.

Visit weather.gov for more information about how lightning can strike.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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