28 Oct 2017

Lightning strikes and how to survive them

From This Way Up, 12:35 pm on 28 October 2017

"Of every ten people hit by lightning, nine will survive to tell the tale. But they could suffer a variety of short- and long-term effects. The list is lengthy and daunting: cardiac arrest, confusion, seizures, dizziness, muscle aches, deafness, headaches, memory deficits, distractibility, personality changes and chronic pain, among others."- Charlotte Huff in Mosaic

Lightning is the electro-static charge that builds up in and around clouds. This charge is looking for somewhere to go; either from one cloud to another which causes sheet lightning, or from cloud to ground (and also ground to cloud), which appears as forked lightning. 

An estimated 4000 people are killed by lightning worldwide every year, but records are sketchy in places like Central Africa and Bangladesh where lightning deaths are relatively common so the actual number of fatalities could be higher.

Journalist Charlotte Huff has been speaking to some lightning survivors, and looking at the risks and dangers of these bolts from above. 

"The changes in personality and mood that survivors experience, sometimes with severe bouts of depression as well, can strain families and marriages, sometimes to breaking point."- Charlotte Huff in Mosaic

We also get our fair share of lightning here in New Zealand, with about 45,000 lightning strikes hitting the ground here every year. We track down two people who had a personal experience with lightning near Nelson more than 20 years ago.