A Moment of Science

Struck by Lightning

How is it that sometimes people survive multiple lightening strikes, while others die instantly?

A gain lightening bolt in the distance.

Photo: The Waterboy (Flickr)

Lightning heats the air around it to 54,000 degrees Fahrenheit, which is five times hotter than the sun's surface.

Getting struck by lightning is not something you want to risk, but for some people it takes a little convincing. Roy Sullivan, for instance, was a park ranger who was stuck by lighting seven times and actually survived.

The Surface Of The Sun

How is that possible? Lightning heats the air around it to about 54,000 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s five times hotter than the surface of the sun. With a temperatures like that, you may be wondering how anyone could survive that kind of heat!

Well, when lightning strikes, it seeks the path of least resistance to the ground. So if it strikes your shoulder it can travel down the side of your body, and into the ground. It causes tissue damage, but as long as it doesn’t strike your heart or spinal cord, you’ll live.

When Lightening Strikes

On average, about 255 people are struck by lightning each year, and about 96 of those people die. Even if you manage to survive, getting struck by lightning can cause serious problems, like short and long-term memory loss, and problems with fine motor skills like buttoning a shirt.

One guy who was struck by lightning fell into a coma and went blind in both eyes when he woke up.

Stay Connected

What is RSS? RSS makes it possible to subscribe to a website's updates instead of visiting it by delivering new posts to your RSS reader automatically. Choose to receive some or all of the updates from A Moment of Science:

Support for Indiana Public Media Comes From

About A Moment of Science

Search A Moment of Science