Weather Center

Lightning Myths 

By Jennifer Chappell Smith 5.18.15

Lightning never strikes the same place twice. Or does it? The National Weather Service (NWS) reports that the Empire State Building gets hit about 100 times each year.

Have you believed other myths about lightning? Here, experts at the NWS help set us straight.

Myth: If the thunderstorm looks far away, and it’s not raining where I am, I’ll be safe to continue outdoor activity.
Fact: Lightning can strike as far as 25 miles away from the parent thunderstorm. Most victims suffer the strike before or after the most intense part of the storm reaches their locations. If a storm is in your area, go indoors.

Myth: If the thunder sounds far away, the lightning can’t get me.
Fact: If you can hear thunder, you’re in danger of a strike. Stop what you’re doing and head indoors. Remember this NWS slogan: “When thunder roars, go indoors!” And stay there for 30 minutes after the last thunderclap.

Myth: I can take shelter on a porch or in a beach cabana or pavilion during a lightning storm. Any roof over my head will help.
: Open-sided buildings won’t protect you. You need to seek shelter inside a substantial building with sides, plumbing, and electrical systems that can send the lightning charge to the ground.

Myth: Rubber shoe soles and rubber car tires will protect me.
Fact: Rubber does not help at all. But the metal frame of a car can provide protection as it channels the charge to the ground.

Myth: I’ll take shelter under this big tree. Or, just lie flat against the ground.

Fact: Nowhere outside is safe during a thunderstorm. And standing beneath a tree is a leading cause of lightning deaths. Find a safe, indoor shelter.