Teenager dies after being struck by lightning in the US; learn how to protect yourself from this phenomenon

A 16-year-old teenager died after being struck by lightning while hiking in the state of Utah, United States, last Friday (30).

According to local authorities, the young girl was accompanied by a friend who was also injured by the electric discharge but survived. The case highlights the risks and prevention methods associated with this natural phenomenon.

What is lightning, and how does it form?

Lightning is an electrical discharge that originates from the dynamics of clouds during a storm. The ice and water particles within the clouds are in constant motion, and the friction generated causes them to become electrically charged.

As a result, the cloud develops a positive and a negative region, creating an electric field between them. When this electric field becomes intense, it breaks down the insulating capacity of the air and generates a flow of electrons between the charged regions.

This flow is what we call lightning, which can occur within the cloud, between two clouds, or between the cloud and the ground.

Lightning is a very rapid phenomenon, lasting only a few milliseconds, but it is extremely powerful, capable of reaching temperatures of up to 30,000 degrees Celsius and intensities of up to 200,000 amperes.

Because of this, it can cause severe damage to people, animals, structures, and electrical equipment. Additionally, lightning produces two secondary effects: lightning and thunder.

Lightning is the flash of light we see in the sky when lightning occurs, caused by the ionization of the air due to the electrical current. Thunder is the sound we hear after the lightning flash, caused by the rapid expansion of the air heated by the lightning.

How to protect yourself from lightning?

Lightning is unpredictable and unavoidable, but there are some measures that can reduce the risk of being struck by it. The most important one is to avoid staying in open or exposed areas during a storm.

Elevated locations such as mountains, towers, and trees should also be avoided as they attract lightning strikes. The best course of action is to seek shelter in a closed and secure location, such as a house or a car.

Indoors, it is recommended to unplug electrical devices and avoid using landline phones or corded cell phones. It is also advisable not to stand near windows or metal doors and to avoid touching metal objects.

If there is no safe shelter nearby, a person should crouch down on the ground with their feet together and hands on their head, trying to stay as low as possible.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the United States experiences around 40 million lightning strikes per year, ranking as the third country with the highest lightning incidence in the world, behind only Brazil and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Florida leads the national ranking in the United States, with approximately 1.2 million lightning strikes annually and an average of 10 deaths per year between 2008 and 2017.

Brazil, being the country with the highest lightning incidence in the world, records approximately 77 million lightning strikes per year, according to the National Institute for Space Research (Inpe).

Just the state of São Paulo sees 13 million lightning strikes, and over 300 people die annually in Brazil as lightning victims. Most of these cases occur in rural or urban areas without adequate infrastructure.

Image: Canva

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