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Is It Safe to Be on a Balcony During a Thunderstorm?

Fear of lightning strikes is one of the most common anxieties people with balconies have of thunderstorms, along with rain and wind. 

During a rainstorm, being on a balcony is very risky because it is surrounded by open spaces, metal railings, and concrete. 

Related: Child Safety Balcony Railings Guide

Statista reports that about 70 Americans were struck by lightning in the year 2020 (17 fatalities and 53 injuries). Up to 90 percent of victims can recover from their injuries, but it’s still wise to avoid a run-in with Mother Nature.

Lying on a wet or metal surface during a thunderstorm is one of the leading causes of death for victims of lightning strikes. The same goes for sitting near windows or outdoors. The safest place to be during a thunderstorm is inside, away from glass and metal objects and on the lowest point possible to avoid being the tallest object.

In this blog post, we will cover the dangers of stepping onto your balcony while there is lightning present as well as how to stay safe.

Also: How to Baby Proof Apartment Balcony

How is thunder made

Basically, lightning is a torrent of electrons that travels from one cloud to another, or from one cloud to the earth. 

Up to 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit are created in the air around the stream of electrons. 

This temperature is five times hotter than the sun’s surface.

Resonating tubes of partial vacuum form around the path of lightning when large quantities of extremely hot air start to cool rapidly. 

There is a fast expansion and contraction of the surrounding air. 

Cracking sounds may be heard because of the column’s vibrating drum head-like structure. 

When the tremors fade, the sound continues to reverberate, creating the thunderous rumble. 

The deafening booms may be heard as far away as 10 miles away from the lightning strike that triggered them.

Because of the slower speed of sound in air compared to electron transport, we see lightning first when it is in view. 

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To put it another way, instead of behaving like a regular sound wave, the sound has the properties and an effect similar to that of shock waves. 

Like a fist in a sock, the shock wave follows the course of the electrons as they pass through it. 

The speed of light is substantially greater than that of sound, which travels at a much slower rate. 

While the light from the flash reaches us in a split second, sound follows the trail like a snail would to catch up to an interstellar rocket.

Can you have thunder without lightning?

Before you hear thunder, you’ll first see lightning, which travels far more quickly than sound. 

If you’re curious about whether or not you can have thunder without seeing lightning, the answer is no. 

According to NOAA, this is not conceivable. 

Lightning is the cause of thunder that occurs in a chain of events. 

When thunder claps, go indoors, as the proverb goes. 

In reality, hearing thunder outside indicates that lightning is approaching. If you can see lightning but don’t hear thunder, it means the storm is too far away for you to hear it. 

To get an idea of lightning’s distance, you can measure the time it takes for thunder to sound. 

Sound travels one mile in roughly five seconds. 

Lightning is usually closer than you think if you hear thunder. 

The fact that it happens most often in the summertime has led some to refer to it as “heat lightning,” although in reality, it is identical to conventional lightning in every other respect. 

Lightning may also be visible during volcanic eruptions and intense snowstorms, which are often referred to as “thunder snow.”

Can lightning hit a balcony?

Even though the patio, porch or balcony ordinarily give protection against rain and other forms of unpredictable weather, storms make it unsafe to seek shelter there. 

If you’re planning on relaxing on your balcony, deck or porch during a rainstorm, keep in mind that unprotected wet surfaces like these create lightning rods. 

In the event that lightning strikes in the area and you come into contact with metal rails or concrete, you will be struck at that instant as it passes through them to the ground.

Lightning arrestors grounded with metal rods, as well as our feet, provide points of contact for the generated electrical current to terminate to the ground.

Where should you avoid being during a thunderstorm?

As many golfers and people who enjoy the outdoors can attest, thunderstorms often come out of nowhere, suddenly and unexpectedly, especially in the summer. 

The lightning that accompanies heavy rainfall poses a significant risk to the well-being of individuals and the community at large. 

Learning what steps to take in the event of a sudden thunderstorm is one of the most important things you can do to protect yourself in any situation where you might be caught off guard.

In the event that a storm does occur, the following safety precautions may assist you to avoid harm:

  • avoid lying on concrete floors
  • avoid reclining on concrete walls
  • steer clear of open-air vehicles like convertibles, motorbikes, and golf carts
  • avoid open building structures and arenas like porches, gazebos, terraces, parks, beaches and sports stadiums
  • stay away from the water
  • switch off electronic devices and put them away
  • avoid phones with cords

What is the 30 30 Rule of lightning?

The 30/30 rule, as it is more popularly known, is a lightning protection and prevention technique that may be implemented anywhere including at home. 

This rule is intended to reduce the risk of lightning strikes. 

In the event of a thunderstorm, the 30/30 rule tells us when to take shelter and when the threat has gone. 

The Flash-to-Bang concept is the foundation of this rule, which goes like this: if the period between seeing a lightning bolt and hearing a thunder is shorter than 30 seconds, then the thunderstorm is within 10 kilometers (6 miles) of us and the risk is imminent.

Count to 30 immediately you see lightning. 

Take refuge quickly if you hear thunder before you reach 30. 

An excellent back-up guideline is to listen for thunder even if you can’t see it. 

Put on hold other activities for at least 30 minutes after the last rumbling of thunder. 

As long as the threat exists, you should remain in a secure location until it is clear that it has gone and you’re sure about it.

How do you know if your house has been struck by lightning?

1. Roof damage by fire

Fire is the primary threat posed by lightning. 

Lightning bolts may reach temperatures of up to 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit, which is hot enough to set the roof and attic on fire. 

Electrical systems, insulation, and other components in your attic may be damaged by a direct impact that penetrates your shingles all the way to the attic floor. 

Metal gutters and water pipes on your roof are excellent conductors of electricity, and they increase the likelihood of fire on your property.

2. Home shockwave damage

Another clue that lightning has hit your house is the presence of shockwave damage. 

A lightning strike is so strong that it can easily break stone, brick and concrete. 

Cracks and fractures, as well as the possibility of flying shrapnel or complete demolition, may be caused in your chimney, for example, as a result of the sheer thunder power.

3. Electrical system damage or failure

It’s obvious that lightning is a potential source of significant electrical damage to your property. 

As a result, your home’s electronics will not be spared by a sudden surge in power. 

This causes irreversible harm to the wires and components within the electronic devices because it induces an excessively dangerous amount of electrical pressure.

What happens if lightning strikes a human?

Although some people suffer only minor injuries, others unfortunately do not escape alive. 

Despite the fact that direct strikes might injure or kill individuals, it is not the most prevalent manner that people lose their lives. 

The majority of lightning-related injuries and deaths that occur to humans are the result of indirect lightning strikes.

According to the results of studies conducted in 26 different countries, lightning strikes are responsible for more than 4,000 deaths per year around the world. 

Nine out of ten people struck are expected to survive. 

However, victims can experience a wide range of short-term and long-term side effects, including:

  • heart attack
  • amnesia
  • spasm
  • dizziness
  • muscle pain
  • hearing loss
  • memory loss
  • attention deficits
  • mental confusion 
  • behavioral changes
  • severe spells of despair

Protect yourself and others with lightning detection

It is always important to be prepared for any situation, especially when it comes to hail and snow storms. 

The most dangerous thing is to be directly outside during a storm when lightning strikes. 

Being on a balcony during a thunderstorm is extremely dangerous, because of the open space and metal railings as well as the surrounding concrete. 

The best thing to do to avoid any danger is to remain indoors and away from windows, electronic gadgets, concrete floors and walls, as well as water. 

Safety aids such as lightning protection apps, lightning rods, horns and strobe lights should be placed where needed to keep your family safe during a thunderstorm.