Thursday, April 3, 2014

Odds of Surviving a Lightning Strike?

A year and a half ago I first posted on a very common misconception regarding thunder and lightning.  It's a big misconception that the number of seconds between the lightning and thunder is equal to the distance in miles to the strike.  The strike is actually 5 times closer!  For full details read the original post here:

Thunder/Lightning Distance Misconception

There's also another misconception that a human struck by lightning almost always dies.  This is simply not the case.  I'm not advocating that you go out and get struck by lightning, but your odds of surviving a lightning strike is much greater than 0%.  Here's an excellent page on lightning strike facts.

Lightning Strike Facts

Your odds of surviving a lightning strike are actually quite high.  Only approximately 10% of people struck by lightning die from the lightning strike.  Granted, many of these people are seriously injured and up to 70% suffer long term effects from the strike, but 90% live to tell the story.

That 90% survival rate is quite impressive in my opinion.  A bolt of lightning carries 100 million volts, compared to a 120 volts from a typical wall outlet in the U.S.  In addition, lightning super-heats the surrounding air to 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit.  Given those numbers it's amazing that anyone survives a lightning strike, let alone 90%!

So what are your odds of getting struck by lightning?  Given an 80 year lifetime, your odds are 1 in 3,000 at some point in your life.  Much higher than one might expect, but still very unlikely.  

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