If you want to know what happens when you get struck by lightning, there are a couple of ways to go about it. The experiential approach is thorough and comprehensive, but has its drawbacks. May we recommend a gentler option, provided by Julian Huguet in today's DNews report?
Getting hit by lightning is rare enough that you don't have to really worry about it. In the U.S, your odds in a given year are about one in one million -- not as long as lottery odds, but still pretty reassuring.
Some Fun Facts© : Lightning is essentially a stream of supercharged electrons shooting from the sky to the ground. There are about 25 million cloud-to-ground lightning strikes each year. The typical lightning bolt delivers 100 million to one billion volts of electricity, with temperatures reaching 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit.
RELATED: Lightning 3 Times as Deadly as Tornadoes This Year
If you do get hit by lightning, here's what you can expect. Direct hits are usually lethal, but only about 10 percent of people struck by lightning die, thanks to phenomena like side flash and surge voltage. If you're not instantly killed, you can still die from cardiac arrest as the lightning short-circuits your heart's electrical rhythms. Respiratory arrest and seizures are common as well.
Assuming you survive all that, expect third degree burns on your body at the entrance and exit points of the arc. You might also develop the genuinely freaky pattern of scars known as Lichtenberg figures. Any metal you're wearing -- watches or belt buckles, say -- will become superheated and leave more burns. Because a lightning strike superheats the air like an explosion, you may also experience a shock wave that can burst your ear drums, tear your clothes apart, and literally knock your socks off.
The good news is that the indignity of it all will seem diminished compared to the searing physical pain. Also, you'll be able to look forward to aftereffects like chronic headaches, muscle twitches, chronic pain and various psychological complications.
And if you're very lucky indeed, several months after being hit by lightning, you may become a piano virtuoso. No, really.
-- Glenn McDonald
How Stuff Works: What If I Were Struck By Lightning?
NASA: Lightning and Atmospheric Electricity Research
The Washington Post: Ten Shocking Things That Can Happen If You Are Struck By Lightning