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Water does not attract lightning, rubber shoes won't help | Debunking myths with an expert

We spoke to a lightning expert to debunk common myths.

ATLANTA — We all know the drill; there's lightning outside, and now everyone is barred from the shower, but does water attract lightning? And do the rubber tires on your car protect you? 

11Alive debunked some commonly shared advice when it comes to weathering a storm.

Myths about water and metal 

Doctor Mary Ann Cooper, an emergency physician, lightning injuries and lightning injury prevention expert, wants people to know that "nothing attracts lightning," including metal and water. 

"Lightning is coming a mile or two through the air," Copper said. "You think it cares whether you're holding a tennis racket or not?"

According to the National Weather Service's website, the issue is not that metal attracts but that metal is a conductor. 

So if lightning strikes metal, the energy is held in the object till it jumps to another. This goes for much of the plumbing in the bathroom as well.

Lightning and rubber

Another common myth is that wearing rubber shoes, a rubber coat or the rubber tires on your car could help. To that, Copper said, no, none of that helps when electricity is traveling by air. 

"It's not the rubber tires," Copper said. The metal on the outside of the car protects those inside."

She said it comes down to science.

"Electricity is made up of electrons," Copper said. "If you try to push two sides, two magnets together, they repel each other."

Since that's the same with electrons, Copper said the electricity wants to move as far away from the metal car as possible. 

"You're safe because lightning is getting dissipated around you," Copper said. 

When struck, do people hold the electricity? 

Many have also heard the myth that if someone near you is struck by lightning, not to touch them. Copper said to "do whatever you can," that it's not dangerous at all.  

"Lightning doesn't stick around on that person. There's no electrical charge that's still there with the person," Copper said.

NWS has taken the liberty of putting together a list of other myths they've debunked over the years on their website. 

Do you have a question? Get in touch with our VERIFY team by texting 202-410-8808. 

   

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