Animal’s Lightning News

Before we get into this hot topic (hah) check out the latest chapter of Sweetheart over at Glibertarians.

Now then: Ever wonder what happens if you get hit by lightning?  I’ve come close a time or two, but happily have avoided the experience.  Maybe that’s why I found this interesting:

Most people who die from lightning strikes are killed instantly by cardiac arrest, as the bolt’s massive electrical voltage short-circuits the heart’s natural rhythm. Humans hit by lightning may also have their eardrums blown out by the incoming pressure wave, their respiratory system paralyzed, or suffer secondary burns as their hair or clothing catches fire. 

But lightning doesn’t kill all of its victims; around 90% of people struck survive. A lightning bolt can pass through your body within mere fractions of a second — often, not even enough time to leave a mark. 

However, people who survive are usually left with nerve damage, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and neurologic symptoms “similar to the post-concussive injuries that football players get,” such as impaired judgment and difficulty concentrating, Dr. Mary Ann Cooper, a lightning safety specialist at the National Lightning Safety Council and emerita professor of emergency medicine at the University of Illinois at Chicago, told Live Science. It is unclear exactly how these brain injuries occur, Cooper said, given the low number of lightning strikes and relative lack of funding for research. However, experts think that they are probably caused by some combination of tissue disruption from the current and blunt force trauma from the abrupt barometric pressure change.

When I was a young man, I knew a guy who had been hit by lightning three times – once while riding his Harley, once while fishing, once while walking across a plowed field.  Local folks called him “Sparky” and he was a bit… off.  Guy had some amazing scars, classic Lichtenberg figures, and his eyes didn’t track with each other.  He would be talking to you and make eye contact with his right eye while the left eye wandered nervously skyward, presumably looking out for lightning.

Fortunately your odds of being hit by lightning are pretty low, over an 80-year lifespan, the chances of this are about 0.0065%.  Just stay away from tall trees and open fields during a thunderstorm, and you’ll be fine.

If you were struck, though, you might be able to light up a light bulb by putting it in your mouth.  That would be a great party trick.