Were you mesmerized by the recent news story about the motorcyclist who survived a lightning strike on I-5 during our severe weather last week? His hair was singed and an ear blackened, but other than being a little dazed, he lived to tell the tale. Although the odds of being struck by lightning in the U.S. are only about 1 in 175,000, a surprising number of people have received a direct hit from a bolt of lightning and survived. What is it like to undergo this usually-fatal experience? As it so happens, The Seattle Public Library has a number of fascinating materials about this phenomenon.
In the amazing documentary Act of God: Meditations on Lightning, Life, and Chance, seven people from around the world who survived lightning strikes talk about how this literal “jolt from the sky” affected their lives. More in-depth stories of lightning survivors—both contemporary and historical—as well as medical information about the effects of a lightning strike on the human body are provided in Out of the Blue: A History of Lightning. The library’s magazine and newspaper databases also offer many personal accounts of lightning survivors, such as this Santa Rosa woman, or five people who were all in the same storm in Colorado, or the heartbreaking story of a mountain climber who survived one lightning strike, only to be felled by a second strike an hour later.
For more about the science of lightning itself, check out The Lightning Book and Lightning, and for tips on protecting yourself during lightning storms, have a look at Lightning Strikes: Staying Safe under Stormy Skies. Finally, one of history’s most famous survivors of a lightning strike—Benjamin Franklin—may have never actually had this experience. In Bolt of Fate: Benjamin Franklin and His Electric Kite Hoax, author Tom Tucker makes a persuasive case that Franklin’s well-known experiment with a kite and lightning may in fact have been an elaborate deception. Regardless of whether this is true or not, the interactions of people with lightning are often harrowing and frequently astonishing—and all available in movies, books, magazines, and newspapers from The Seattle Public Library.