A downward trend in the occurrence of lightning strikes on houses has been observed. While the risk levels may vary, it is reported that only one in two hundred houses are hit by lightning every year. Why are the numbers alarmingly low?
Lightning does not strike homes very often because it is not the path of least resistance. Homes have building materials such as insulators, lightning rods, and ground systems, and the probability of such a thing happening is very low.
This article further looks into how lightning strikes houses, what makes houses more vulnerable, and other valuable information.
Lightning is a powerful natural phenomenon that is characterized by electricity. It occurs between the clouds but extends to the air around the cloud and the ground beneath it. The lightning spark occurs between two oppositely charged particles.
The air around the cloud tries to contain the lightning by acting as an insulator, but eventually, the charge gets too high to control and produces a spark of electricity. This then hits the ground and is seen as lightning.
Lightning can be powerful enough to set things on fire and cause other substantial damage to humans, animals, and property. Lightning often occurs in association with thunderstorms and rain.
How Can Lightning Strike Houses?
The lightning strikes are not always direct and can occur in many ways. Each type of strike has a different level of impact and damage that it causes to the house. Let us look at these further.
The first and most obvious way lightning can hit your home is through a direct strike. This can be in the form of a cloud-to-ground electric discharge. A lightning strike hitting your home can cause immense damage.
The high voltage can cause power surges and damage your devices and appliances. Moreover, if the lightning is very intense, the heat that it produces can start a fire or cause an explosion which can cause irreparable damage.
Sometimes a lightning bolt does not directly hit the house’s structure but hits objects close to your home. These can be trees, fences, power lines, or pillars. The electrical energy may also be transferred to the house’s structure.
In such a case, it can impact electrical systems and cause damage to appliances, but the damage would not be as significant as the one caused by a direct strike. However, the objects that are struck may catch fire which can spread to the home.
When lightning strikes the ground, it sends a huge surge of energy. These currents can affect any wirings that come in the way, and sometimes, the high heat can cause small fires.
However, this is highly unlikely without the presence of flammable material.
Fire is a common occurrence when lightning takes place. Sometimes lightning may not hit your home or an area nearby, but it can cause massive fires in the region where your home is.
Given the right environment, this fire can spread and impact your home by setting it on fire or by the smoke it causes.
What Makes Homes More Vulnerable To Lightning Strikes?
Before we can uncover why houses are not getting as much lightning as their surrounding areas, it is important to understand why homes are vulnerable to lightning strikes.
Some components of a house, like its location, height, roofing materials, and electric systems, make the house prone to being hit by lightning.
Your home’s location determines if it will be hit by lightning. If your home is in a region that experiences thunderstorms frequently, your home is more vulnerable. Moreover, lightning may strike if your home is built on higher terrain and is elevated.
If you live in a tall house, the risk of lightning is imminent. Houses with a tall height give the lightning an easier path to strike on.
Several roofing materials are available on the market, and each has its own purpose. If you choose a metal roofing material instead of asphalt, cedar, or slate, the metal acts as a conductor of electricity and attracts lightning.
Houses with outdated or inadequate electrical systems are more vulnerable to lightning strikes. Electrical systems that are not properly grounded or have faulty wiring can increase the risk of damage from lightning strikes.
Trees are one of the most attractive objects for lightning. If trees are in or too close to your home, your home risks an indirect strike. These can cause considerable damage.
Why Lightning Does Not Strike Houses Often
Now that we know how lightning works, strikes homes, and what factors come into play, let us answer your question. Below are some reasons why lightning strikes on houses are rarely reported.
Path Of Least Resistance
The electric discharge in lightning looks for the path with the lowest resistance.
The path of least resistance is not present from the clouds to a house because other taller objects are available. These can be tall trees, high-rise buildings, and electric poles. The house can still be impacted through an indirect strike, but no direct hits are taken.
As technology advances, new solutions are introduced to protect houses. One such object is a lightning rod. A lightning rod provides the lightning with a path to the ground. These are often also referred to as grounding systems, as the lightning strike is neutralized without causing harm to the house.
As mentioned before, the building and roofing materials play a huge role in whether lightning hits a house. New, safe, and durable materials have been introduced, which allow for more safety and protection compared to metal materials.
These have been readily accepted and used in the construction of new homes, hence, making them safer during thunderstorms.
Upon data collection and analysis, it is revealed that, on average, the probability of a house being struck by lightning during a thunderstorm is very low.
The National Weather Service estimates that the odds of a house being struck by lightning in any given year is around 1 in 200. This does not eradicate the possibility of such an event happening, but it does put people at some ease.
While lightning does not strike homes, it is still a dangerous and sometimes fatal weather condition. It is important to take the necessary precaution when it is thunderstorm season and avoid any of the factors that make houses more vulnerable to lightning, like bad electrical systems, conductive roofing materials, and more.