Thunderstorms strikes are a scary experience. Around the nation, there are hundreds of stories of objects or people being hit by a bolt of lightning, especially during the summer. According to research from the National Weather Service, there is an average of 47 reported fatalities per year and hundreds of accounts of people being severely injured.
Additionally, according to National Geographic, cloud-to-ground bolts strike the Earth’s surface nearly 100 times every single second. And each bolt can bring with it up to one billion volts of electricity. While seeking shelter indoors offers greatly increased safety, these powerful bolts can also strike property, cars, and more.
There is usually costly damage done to inanimate objects that get hit by bolts. Despite the common myth, lightning can and often does strike the same place twice, especially tall and isolated buildings. Depending on the damage to things like buildings and cars, the cost of repair can be thousands of dollars. Additionally, with buildings, the large electrical currents from the bolt can cause dangerous fires.
So how can homeowners and business owners avoid some of this damage? Scientists agree that an easy preventative method to avoid damage is to install a lightning rod.
Why Use a Lightning Rod?
The lightning rod, also known as a finial, acts as a tool to negate the positive power of a bolt, according to Richard Orville, a professor of atmospheric sciences at Texas A&M who has studied lightning for more than 35 years. In an interview with Texas A&M Today, Orville says that the key is to place the rod at the highest point of a structure. The rod is then connected to a series of conductors and electrodes that provide a specific path for the electric current to travel and become safely grounded.
Many new residential construction sites, especially in more prone areas, include some form of finial as a preventative measure. All tall buildings, which are very attractive to bolts, include finials. The National Weather Center notes that the Empire State Building in New York City, for example, has been struck thousands of times since it was finished in 1931. But there has never been an issue because it was built with rods.
Choosing to spend money to install a finial is a tough decision that each property owner has to consider. Homeowners should determine if their home insurance plan includes lightning protection. In areas of frequent thunderstorms, such as Tornado Alley across the Midwest and areas of Florida, it can be an especially worthwhile investment. While lightning strikes are rarer for smaller structures like homes, it offers an added element of safety and peace of mind.