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June 24, 2010 Volume 31, No. 32

When lightning strikes

Lightning is responsible for more deaths and property loss nationwide than tornadoes, hurricanes and floods combined, says Robert Schultheis, MU Extension natural resources engineering specialist. This week is Lightning Safety Awareness Week.

“Lightning kills about 400 people, injures about 1,000 and causes a quarter-billion dollars worth of property destruction each year,” Schultheis says. “In Missouri we can usually expect lightning to occur an average of one in every six days.”

Damage often extends to homes and electronics. “You can have a lot of different types of damage, from direct hits that could start fires to power surges that are so great that they will run through wiring and blow out all your electronic equipment,” he says. “I’ve known people who have had lightning melt the nails that hold down siding on their homes.”

One way to mitigate the danger is to install what is commonly known as a lightning rod. Lightning protection systems, consisting of air terminals on the top of a structure and copper or aluminum cables running to grounding rods, can save a home from costly repairs.

Although a lightning protection system may seem like a simple thing to install, Schultheis advises homeowners to consult professionals.