What Causes Lightning?

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(Flickr/Pete Hunt)
(Flickr/Pete Hunt)

John Friedman has written a whole book about lightning — looking at the science behind it, the myths around it, and its place in history.

Did you know that a number of people have been struck by lightning numerous times — one man six times?

What happens when you are struck by lightning? "It's hard to predict what effect it'll have on its victims," says Friedman.

Many of the people struck by lightning told him that they felt God had played a role in their survival. A mountain climber told Friedman that he felt a buzzing in the air right before he was struck by lightning — as if a swarm of insects was present; others, he says, are struck out of the blue.

How To Protect Yourself

To avoid being struck by lightning, Friedman recommends heeding the 30-30 rule:

"After you see lightning, count the time until you hear thunder. If 30 seconds pass, or less, take shelter immediately. Then, after the last lightning strike that you see, wait at least 30 minutes before going outside," Friedman says. " The best place to take shelter is in an automobile."

This interview originally broadcast in 2008.


  • John Friedman, author, Out of the Blue, A History of Lightning: Science, Superstition, and Amazing Stories of Survival

This segment aired on June 22, 2012.


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