Digging Deeper: Lightning strikes and the damage they cause - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Digging Deeper: Lightning strikes and the damage they cause

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As afternoon temperatures grow with the humidity, so do dangerous storms and the threat of lightning.  July is the worst month of the year for lightning strikes.

So far, 10 people have been killed this year by lightning strikes, the most recent a 12 year old boy scout in Utah, yesterday.

Last month Water, Gas, and, Light responded to more than a dozen lightning strikes.

Electricians say something like this surge protector is better than nothing, but if your home receives a direct lightning strike, not even this may protect your electronics.

They say that lightning never strikes the same place twice, but nothing could be further from the truth. Just take a look at this tree in the Callaway Lakes subdivision, it was struck by lightning, not once but twice, and look at the surrounding trees, they're charred too, showing lightning's fierce power.

"If lightning strikes outside it can travel over 60 feet before it hits your home," said Bobby Cox, Lowe Electric Supply Branch Manager..

Take a look at the lightning strikes from Thursday afternoon, more than 35,000 from central Alabama, across south Georgia, to central Georgia and up to Atlanta. Digging deeper we learned lightning can do a lot of damage. In 2007 the Insurance Information Institute found 177,000 lightning claims amounted to one billion dollars in insured losses. Firefighters have had nine call for lightning damage in Albany this year.

"Of course most go unreported, but we get several a year striking a tree or pole, setting the woods on fire," said Albany Fire Assistant Chief Allen Cravey.

It's the strike itself that can cause a fire, it happened just last year when lightning ignited a roof in Lee County. We had our own trouble with lightning from weekend storms, that knocked out cable and computer systems. Electricians say there are protection systems for both homes and businesses.

"You can actually install a lightning protection equipment all around your house, which uses lightning rods, and a grounding system throughout the house which has a grounding grid," said Cox..

Surge protectors offer some protection for electronics, but little stops damage from a direct lighting strike to a home.

"The best thing to do is go around your house and unplug everything you can," said Cox.

With 25 million cloud to ground flashes a year, the key is to find a shelter when lightning strikes, and avoid areas where you're the highest object.

To keep your eye on lightning when you're out, there's even an application for your I-phone now that has a real time lightning strike display that provides up to the minute distance and direction information.

Most people who die from lightning strikes succumb to sudden cardiac arrest. Contrary to myths cars are safe in a lightning storm, but not because of the rubber tires. it's the metal body of the car, that conducts lightning around you.

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