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Lightning Myths: Lightning rods attract lightning.

By DAN ROBINSON
Storm Chaser/Photographer
25 Years of Storm Chasing
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Lightning Rod TRUTH: Lightning rods along with a full lightning protection system are designed to intercept a lightning strike that is already occuring to a structure and route it safely to ground, preventing a fire and reducing any damage to wiring, appliances and the building itself.

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Lightning rods do not attract nor are they designed to attract lightning. Since the descending stepped leader of a lightning bolt doesn't 'decide what to strike' until it is very close to the ground, lightning will only strike a lightning rod system if it already happens to be in (or very close to) the lightning's path.

Devastating damageA tree (photos at right) at the home of Katie and Randy Barnes in Raleigh, North Carolina was struck by lightning in June of 2000. The tree was less than 50 feet away from their house (see photo below) - a house equipped with a full lightning protection system including tall pointed rods, heavy cable, and solid grounding. All of this didn't do anything to attract the lightning away from the tree.

Below: tree at far left (also pictured in damage photos at right) struck by lightning only 50 feet from lightning-rod equipped house on the right:

Related myths include those about lightning only striking metal objects, and the myth that carrying, wearing or standing near anything metal will increase chances of being hit by lightning.

See Also:

Lightning Protection Systems
What protection systems do and don't do.
MYTH: Lightning rods discharge a storm by draining its charge.

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