Is Lightning Attracted to Umbrellas?

I’m a college student and I live on campus at Rowan University. This means my main mode of transportation around the medium-sized public university campus is my own two feet. That being said, on Saturday I was walking through campus on my way to the Rec Center while heavy rain was falling with my umbrella.

While walking, I was thinking about the storm that was supposed to hit the area later that night and how the storm wasn’t going to stop numerous college students from walking during the thunder and lightning to get to the local bar, Landmark, to root on the Philadelphia Phillies during Game 3 of the World Series.

By the time they’d get to the bar, they’d be soaking wet – unless they used an umbrella. But how safe is using an umbrella while walking through a thunder/lightning storm?

According to Ron Holle, research meteorologist at the NOAA National Severe Storm Laboratory, you are pretty safe.

Lightning only searches within a 50-yard radius both upward and downward. This means that lightning is attracted to tall objects such as hills, trees, towers, buildings, and yes – at times – umbrellas.

If you are walking with an umbrella in an area composed of tall buildings, lightning will strike the tallest object. However, you must be careful for the “side flash,” when lightning strikes something close to where you are standing and then jumps from that to you.

If you are already the only tall object within 50 yards, it doesn’t matter much what you are holding (umbrella included) so get somewhere safe – skip the gym or class if you have to (sorry, professors!).



Filed under News, Personal, Science

2 responses to “Is Lightning Attracted to Umbrellas?

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