It’s lightning month in Canada. Yep, in July there are more cloud-to-ground lightning strikes than any other time of year, followed closely by August and June. That means that summer is when you’re most likely to get struck. And if your name happens to be Roy Sullivan, you might want to get yourself indoors as soon as the sun disappears—just to be safe. A US Park Ranger by the same name was struck by lightning seven times in his lifetime. His wife was struck once, too, which just goes to show that maybe lightning can strike the same place twice. Here are some other scary facts about this natural phenomenon.
1. Lightning is more common than you think. There are about 2.34 million flashes of lightning in Canada each year, which equals about one strike every three seconds during the summer months—that’s a lot of lightning!
2. Lightning can be fatal. Twenty-nine percent of all people struck by lightning die (usually of a heart attack). For the 71 percent of people who survive a lightning strike, many suffer from serious health and psychological problems such as memory loss, insomnia, impaired hearing, and chronic pain.
3. In Canada, an estimated 4,000 forest fires are ignited by lightning every year. And those fires burn an average of 2.3 million hectares a year.
4. A typical lightning bolt can reach up to 30,000 degrees Celsius. That’s freaking hot! How hot exactly? It’s actually hotter than the surface of the sun.
5. Lightning is not confined to thunderstorms—it’s also been seen in instances of volcanic eruptions, forest fires, heavy snowstorms, large hurricanes, and even clear skies.
6. The most dangerous cloud-to-ground lightning strikes come from seemingly blue skies. These are known as “bolts from the blue.” They typically travel a long distance from the storm cloud—as far as 40 kilometres!—making it dangerous to be outside even after a storm has passed.
7. Holding a cellphone while you’re struck will only make things worse. In the US, about 1 percent of lightning deaths occur while people are inside a home talking on a corded phone. That’s because their houses aren’t grounded properly. Contrary to popular belief, cell phones don’t attract lightning, but having one in your hand (or any other metal object for that matter), while getting hit by lightning will increase your chances of organ damage.
8. In Canada, lightning seriously injures 164 people and kills about 10 people each year. Our neighbours to the south, the good old US of A, lose about 54 of their citizens to lightning. According to the National Lightning Safety Institute, worldwide an estimated 24,000 people die every year from getting struck.
9. Lightning can contain a hundred million electrical volts. People in or near water are the most at risk during thunderstorms. That’s because swimmers protrude from the water offering a potential channel for the lightning. Plus, water is also a good conductor of electricity.
10. Lightning does strike the same place twice. In fact, it often does, especially if it’s a tall, pointy, isolated object like a tall tree or a lightning rod. Lightning strikes the CN Tower an average of 75 times per year.