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Truths and myths about what to do in a storm

LanguedocLiving, Aug 9

In a storm, you can shelter under a tree: FALSE

It never hurts to repeat the fact that trees are regularly hit by lightning. The lightning is looking for the shortest way to hit the ground, so that means that the highest point in the area is often the target which is hit. So, in case of a storm, the last thing to do is to take shelter under a tree. The same goes for umbrellas. In the mountains, it is also recommended not to approach a peak, but rather to stand at least 30 meters below.

Cars make a good shelter: TRUE

Sheltering in a closed metal car is a much better idea than under a tree. On the principle of the Faraday cage, the vehicle will deflect currents to the ground, keeping the occupants unscathed. The tyres make a good insulation and protect the interior of the vehicle.

You must unplug electrical devices: TRUE

At home, it is advisable to unplug your electrical appliances BEFORE the storm.

Even though you think you are completely safe from storms outside, there is still a danger: if lightning strikes the house, it could cause a surge, and particularly televisions and computers are at risk. It is better to unplug everything, so as not to risk a fire at home. However, try to unplug the devices before a storm, because if your house gets hit as you are unplugging a device, it is possible for the electricity to pass through the plug into you.

In case of storm, you can use the phone: TRUE AND FALSE

At home, it is recommended that you do not use your landline telephone (except in case of emergency). Your mobile phone is safe to use, but it it too obvious to say don’t use a selfie stick outside?

At home, it’s OK to take a bath or shower: FALSE

Taking a bath or a shower could be a serious mistake. Lightning can follow the metal pipes and strike you. In the same way, it is not recommended to do the washing up during a storm.

In case of storm, you can swim in the sea: FALSE

When bathing, you keep your head above the water most of the time. This puts you at risk, as your head is possibly the highest point in the area. If you are in the water at the time of the storm, get out of the water, don’t run, and lie down on the beach.

Outside, you have to stay together: FALSE

Surprised in the countryside by a storm? If you are in a group, stay away from each other. It is recommended to move three metres away from your neighbour, to prevent lateral lightning from being transmitted from one person to another.

Ignore your hair standing on end: FALSE

The bottom of the storm is negatively charged, and it looks for positively charged things to transfer the energy to. That’s what the lightning is.

If your hair begins to stand on end in a lightening storm, that’s a sign that your positive charge is interacting with the negative charge of the storm. If you notice this happening, get indoors immediately. You are at great risk of getting struck by lightning!

It’s safe to stand near a window: FALSE

You won’t get struck by lightning through a window, but beware that there are strikes that have been known to shatter glass.

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