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6 Weird Facts About Lightning Strikes

From strange lightning strike rashes to exploding trees, these facts about lightning will, well, shock you.

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Dark storming skiesPhoto: Shutterstock

1. You Can’t Have Thunder Without Lightning

That’s because thunder is the sound caused by lightning. A charged, superheated lightning bolt creates a “resonating tube” as it travels. The air in the tube rapidly expands and contracts causing vibrations that you hear as the rumble of thunder.

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Facts about lightningPhoto: Shutterstock

2. Lightning-Strike Victims Develop a Strange Rash

People who are struck by lightning are often temporarily covered with what’s known as red Lichtenberg figures, which are branching, tree-like patterns created by the passage of high voltage electrical discharges along the skin.

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Lightning strikes treePhoto: Shutterstock

3. Lightning Strikes Can Explode a Tree

Imagine 15 million volts of electricity hitting a tree branch. The most likely result? The heat travels through the tree, vaporizing its sap and creating steam that causes the trunk to explode.

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Lightning stormPhoto: Shutterstock

4. Lightning Strikes Hundreds of Times Per Hour Over One South American Lake

Bolts of light illuminate the sky above the intersection of the Catatumbo River and Lake Maracaibo in northwestern Venezuela more than 300 nights a year, often flashing several times a second. Warm trade winds from the Caribbean Sea mix with cool air descending from the Andes to create an unusual weather pattern that helped the area set a record for the world’s most lightning bolts per square kilometre last year.

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Lightning storm over lakePhoto: Shutterstock

5. Petrified Lightning Is Real

When lightning strikes sand or rock, the extreme heat can fuse minerals beneath the surface into a tube called a fulgurite. Though relatively rare, these “lightning fossils” have been found worldwide.

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Lightning strikesPhoto: Shutterstock

6. A Lot of People Are Afraid of Getting Hit by Lightning

The odds of being struck by lightning in your lifetime are a tiny 1 in 12,000, yet astraphobia is the third most common phobia in America, behind acrophobia (fear of heights) and zoophobia (fear of animals). But beware: Scientists say climate change may increase the chances to about 1 in 8,000 by year 2100.

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Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest