TAMPA, Fla. — A viral video from the Tampa Bay area shows a vehicle getting struck by lightning from thunderstorms on July 1st. This raises the question, are you safe in a vehicle made out of metal?
Millions of lightning strikes hit Florida every year, with summer being the peak season. In fact, according to the National Weather Service, "more than 90% of the lightning in this area occurs from May to October, between the hours of noon and midnight."
With all the summer storms and lightning here in Florida, there is a good chance that you will be driving through a storm at some point.
So, is your car a safe place to be during a storm?
The short answer, yes!
It might sound counterintuitive, but being in a metal car is safe. Here's why! When lightning strikes the car frame, the current wants to take the path of least resistance. That keeps the current traveling through the metal frame of the car and exits into the ground through the tires.
That means try not to touch any metal in the vehicle during a storm! As long as you are not touching the metal frame of the vehicle, your chances of being struck are highly unlikely. Also something to remember, if you have a convertible, you lose the protection from the metal roof.
What will happen to your car?
Most likely the lightning will strike the antenna or the roof of the vehicle. Your antenna will likely be fried along with a lot of the electronics in the vehicle. One or more tires will likely be destroyed as the current passes through the metal frame and through the tires into the ground.
Is everywhere inside a home or building safe?
The answer is actually no!
We all know inside a building or home is the safest place to be. But a couple of locations and activities at home should be put off until after a storm passes.
Just like with your car, currents from a lightning strike will take the path of least resistance. That means if your home gets struck by lightning, the current could flow through any pipes or wires to you. That means it is safer to hold off on showering/bathing and touching any electrical devices that are corded to the wall.
Is Florida the lightning capital of the United States?
According to a report released by Vaisala, Florida was not the state with the most lightning strikes in 2021. Texas took the crown for the most lightning strikes last year with close to 42 million! Florida came in second with just over 14.5 million lightning strikes.
Those numbers can be a little deceiving due to the massive size of Texas compared to Florida. When you break down the strikes per squared kilometer, the Vaisala reports states that Florida actually saw the highest density of lightning strikes with close to 86 per square kilometer. That's 223 lightning events per square mile!