Lightning is a powerful release of energy caused by the interaction of positive and negative charges within thunderclouds. It is the second-leading cause of weather-related fatalities in the US, with an average of 30 deaths per year. Due to its striking appearance and power, lightning has been a subject of myths and misconceptions for centuries. One of the most popular misconceptions is the belief that lightning never strikes the same place twice.
The Truth Behind the Myth
This common belief is actually a myth. In fact, lightning frequently strikes the same place multiple times. The Empire State Building in New York City, for instance, is struck by lightning around 100 times a year. Tall buildings, towers, and even trees are more likely to be struck because they are taller and closer to the source of the lightning: thunderclouds.
The reason people believe that lightning never strikes the same place twice is because they misunderstand the term “same place.” Lightning can hit the same spot on the Earth’s surface several times, and can even form a repetitive pattern. This happens because certain features on the Earth’s surface, such as tall buildings, can attract lightning.
The idea that lightning never strikes the same place twice might have originated as a way of encouraging people to move away from an area after a lightning strike. The notion of lightning’s unpredictability is also used to remind people of the potential dangers of lightning strikes, and to encourage them to seek shelter during thunderstorms.
Why Do Some Places Get Struck By Lightning More Often?
Some areas are more prone to lightning strikes than others. Florida has the highest rate of lightning strikes in the US, with more than 20 thunderstorm days per year. The state’s flat terrain and moist air make it an ideal environment for lightning to strike.
Another factor that contributes to the frequency of lightning strikes is the location of the area. Areas near large bodies of water or high elevations are more likely to be hit by lightning. Lightning is also more likely to strike in areas that experience frequent thunderstorms or have a high amount of rainfall.
The Dangers of Lightning Strikes
While lightning strikes can be awe-inspiring to watch, they are also extremely dangerous. Lightning is hotter than the surface of the sun and can easily start fires, destroy buildings or trees, and even kill people.
If you are caught in a thunderstorm, it is important to take shelter immediately. Avoid being near tall objects, open fields or bodies of water. Do not use corded phones or electrical appliances and stay away from windows and doors.
If you are outdoors, the best thing you can do is stay inside a substantial building or fully-enclosed metal vehicle until the storm has passed. If there is no shelter available, avoid standing under tall trees or near water, and stay low to the ground.
For more information on lightning strikes, check out the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s website at www.noaa.gov and the National Lightning Safety Institute at www.lightningsafety.org.
Remember, lightning can strike anywhere and at any time. Do not let the popular myth that lightning never strikes the same place twice fool you into thinking that a particular location is safe from lightning strikes. Take precautions during thunderstorms and educate yourself about the dangers of lightning strikes.