WUFT News

Gainesville lightning strike survivor among 90 percent who live

By on November 26th, 2012

Vincent Herzog had just taken in the view of the El Yunque rainforest from atop a rock on top of a mountain in Puerto Rico in August 2002. After a few pops of lightning, he turned to leave the rock.

When he looked down, he heard a loud “pow!” behind him and saw light coming out of his foot.

Herzog, of Gainesville, escaped without a burn or injury after the lighting that struck the ground behind him discharged upward into his leg.

“I remember feeling amazed – happy to be alive. I remember the rush of trying to get off the top of the mountain,” he said. “I would say it’s amazing to be reminded that you’re so small and that you can go and be called away at any time. Life is short.”

It takes one ampere, a measure of electric current, to stop the human heart. The average lightning bolt is 30,000 amperes, but the discharge through the ground sent 100 amperes into Herzog’s leg.

Like Herzog, most people survive lightning strikes due to surface flashover, which occurs when an absorbed current of 1,300 amperes is distributed around the outside of the body, with only about five amperes getting inside.

The chance of getting hit by lightning is close to one in a million, but of those struck, nearly 90 percent survive.

About 300 lighting-related injuries and between 70 to 100 deaths occur annually in the U.S., according to the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Of reported incidents in the past 72 years, Florida leads the nation in lightning-related deaths and injuries. From 1959-2007, there were 449 deaths and 1,788 injuries in the state, according to the NOAA. Lightning causes more deaths in Florida than all other storm-related phenomenon.

A myth about lightning strike survivors asserts they are likely to get struck a second time. Martin Uman, UF professor of electrical and computer engineering who has been studying lightning since 1963, said it’s not true.

“There’s nobody that has any predilection to get struck by lightning, and if you’re struck once, it doesn’t give you a higher odds of getting struck again,” he said.

He said lightning often hits the ground randomly and less often hits objects standing near the ground.

Uman also said lightning victims can often be saved. CPR can revive unconscious victims.

“Don’t be afraid you’re going to get shocked by touching them,” he said. “A lot of people think if somebody’s struck by lightning, they’re all charged up, but that’s not the case. So you can touch them and you should give them CPR.”

If the strike is moderate to severe, some survivors will suffer from puncture wounds, psychomotor functions, disorientation and sleep disorders. Direct strikes can be deadly. But Uman said little is known about physiological effects a victim experiences after being hit by lightning.

Although most survive lightning strikes, it’s still unsafe to go out during a storm. Uman said it’s important to remember basic rules during lightning storms: stay inside vehicles and away from tall metal structures, fields, or single-standing trees.

Kelly Price edited this story online.


This entry was posted in Health and Science and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.
 

More Stories in Health and Science

Jessica Grobman, born HIV-positive, said she believes better sex education in Florida schools would help children grow up safer and healthier. “If education was just more encouraged, it definitely could be a great outcome,” she said.  Photo courtesy of Jessica Grobman.

HIV Positive Student Advocates Comprehensive Sex Education

Jessica Grobman was born with HIV, the human immunodeficiency virus. But it was not until she learned about HIV and other sexually transmitted infections in middle school that she began to understand she was different.


FTN-feature

UF Graduate Students Offer Free Therapy To Those In Need

Volunteer graduate students studying clinical health psychology staff the Free Therapy Night clinic at Gainesville Community Ministry. The equal access clinic focuses specifically on mental health.


UF_Shands

UF Health Shands Hospital Responds To Mold Discovery In North Tower

After a complaint from a cancer patient, UF Health Shands Hospital has removed mold from three patient rooms in the hospital’s north tower.


Selena Sattler searches for the grade of her favorite fast food location on What the Health. The app was recently released in Florida, allowing users quick access to local restaurant grades based on health inspections.

Mobile App Offers Restaurant Health Inspection Grades

An app called What the Health offers users instant access to health inspection data for restaurants in the area. Launched in Florida on Jan. 26, the app assigns letter grades for restaurants based on county health inspection findings.


Chris “Boris” Marhefka and Carlee Daylor prepare meals to be delivered to members for the week.
Eat The 80 recently launched a Facebook campaign that helped raise $3,000 worth of meals to help families undergoing cancer treatment.

Meal Delivery Program To Help Families In Need

At the end of its one-week campaign, Eat The 80 raised $3,000 for meals to give away to families. The money will provide meals for four or five families over the next month.


Thank you for your support

WUFT depends on the support of our community — people like you — to help us continue to provide quality programming to North Central Florida.
Become a Sustainer
I want to support FM 89.1/NPR
I want to support Florida's 5/PBS
Donate a Vehicle
Underwriting Payments