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Lightning is not attracted to metal: Top 5 myths of lightning strikes

LAS VEGAS, NV - JULY 06: Lightning strikes during a thunderstorm on July 6, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - JULY 06: Lightning strikes during a thunderstorm on July 6, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Credit: Ethan Miller

Credit: Ethan Miller

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"People get the idea that jewelry, headphones, golf clubs, (etc.) attract lightning but that's not the case at all," said Matt Bragaw, a meteorologist and lightning safety specialist with the National Weather Service in Melbourne, Florida. "Metal conducts electricity very efficiently, but it does not draw electricity to it like a magnet."

With that in mind, here are the top 5 myths about lightning strikes:

1. Lighting is attracted to metal objects

Fact: The presence of metal makes absolutely no difference where lightning strikes. Height, pointy shape and isolation are the dominant factors controlling where a lightning bolt strikes.

2. Rubber tires on a car protect you from lightning by insulating you from the ground.

Fact: A vehicle with a metal roof is usually a safe place during a lightning storm, but it is the roof and metal sides of the car, not the tires, that offer protection. Lighting striking a car will be conducted through the metal into the ground.

3. If it’s sunny with no clouds overhead, it is safe from lightning.

Fact: Lightning can strike up to 10 miles from the center of a thunderstorm, far outside the area of rain.

4. Lightning never strikes the same place twice.

Fact: Lighting often strikes the same place repeatedly, especially if it's a tall, isolated object.

5. It is good to take shelter under a tree during a thunderstorm.

Fact: Trees, because they are tall and pointy, are more likely to be struck by lightning, which could impact anyone standing underneath of one. It's often believed that golfers are struck the most by lightning, but that is also a myth. Most people killed by lightning during leisure activities are on or near the water.