The Five Ways Lightning Strikes People
The National Weather Service has prepared an excellent summary on lightning safety and awareness. Let me summarize for you the five ways a person may be struck by lightning.
1. Direct Strike -- A person struck directly by lightning becomes a part of the main lightning discharge channel. This is often the most deadly strike and usually happens when a person is the tallest object in an open field.
2. Side Flash -- A side flash (also called a side splash) occurs when lightning strikes a taller object near the victim and a portion of the current jumps from taller object to the victim. This is why you are told NOT to hide under a tree during a thunderstorm, as lightning can jump from a tree to you.
3. Ground Current -- When lightning strikes a tree or other object, much of the energy travels outward from the strike in and along the ground surface. Ground currents are responsible for killing farm animals as well as people as the current travels across the ground surface and through the nervous system of the living creature in its path.
4. Conduction -- Lightning can travel long distances in wires or other metal surfaces. Metal does not attract lightning, but it provides a path for the lightning to follow. People struck indoors are usually near electric appliances, plumbing, or metal framing.
5. Streamers -- People caught in “streamers” are at risk of being killed or injured by lightning. Streamers develop as the downward-moving leader, or main lightning strike path, approaches the ground. Streamers are the hidden, smaller off-shoots of the main strike when it makes its bright return stroke to the cloud.
To see the complete section on lightning from the National Weather Service, please click here.. http://www.lightningsafety.noaa.gov/struck.htm