Photo: Lightning over Patagonia, Argentina.

Whips of lightning cut a dramatic scene across a storm-darkened sky in Patagonia, Argentina. Most lightning occurs within cumulonimbus clouds like these, but it can also be released from wide, layered formations called stratiform clouds.

Photograph by William R. Curstinger

Lightning kills as many as 2,000 people worldwide every year. Hundreds more people are struck but survive, usually with lingering and debilitating symptoms. Here are some things you can do to avoid electrical storms or decrease your chances of getting struck.

Safety Tips

  • If outside, seek refuge in a car or grounded building when lightning or thunder begins.
  • If inside, avoid taking baths, or showers, and washing dishes. Also avoid using landline phones, televisions, and other appliances that conduct electricity.
  • Stay inside for 30 minutes after you last see lightning or hear thunder. People have been struck by lightning from storms centered as far as 10 miles (16 kilometers) away.
  • If caught outside away from a building or car, stay clear of water bodies and tall objects like trees. Find a low spot or depression and crouch down as low as possible, but don't lie down on the ground. Lightning can move in and along the ground surface, and many victims are struck not by bolts but by this current.

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