Thunderbolts and lightning, very very frightening

I guess we all have our own utterly irrational fears. One of mine is needles. It’s not that they hurt, because they don’t; rather it’s the concept that causes me to shudder at the prospect of a blood test. Sticking bits of metal into my body and sucking out the contents? I don’t think so. You’ll have to catch me first.

Another almost irrational fear is lightning.  We’ve had quite a bit of it around Hamilton recently, prompting this entry. I say almost irrational because lightning can, and frequently does, kill people. But there are a few very simple things that you can do to pretty-well eliminate this risk.

One is the extremely simple ‘stay indoors’ method. Lightning tends to hit tall pointy things, like church spires and trees. (Sheltering under a tree in a thunderstorm is not a clever idea – if the shock of a strike doesn’t kill you, the falling branch will.) That’s because pointy things lead to a high electric field in their vicinity, high electric field means lots of electrically charge particles created (electrons and charged air molecules), and moving charged particles are an electric current – i.e. lightning.  The pointy-thing effect with lightning is similar to the way that driving a nail into a surface might cause it to crack – the stresses are largest at the pointed tip.

So, if there’s a storm in your vicinity, the chances are its the trees in your neighbourhood that are most at risk. If lightning does hit your house, it will probably be on the TV aerial (assuming you have one) and then it is nicely conducted through to ground  via your TV set. Not much good for your television, but you should be fine. And if it hits the house directly, current will quickly find its way through the vast array of plumbing and wiring in your house, leaving you unscathed. But best avoid doing electrical stuff while a storm is raging.   Of course, with your electrical system zapped, your house might just catch fire, but hopefully the noise of the event has woken you up, and you, at least, will be fine.  

So not much to worry about, then, assuming you are one of the lucky people in this world with a proper house to live in.

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