If you have ever been caught in a thunderstorm while driving your car, you have probably asked yourself the question, "Can lightning go through glass?" To learn more about what causes this electric phenomenon that streaks the sky and whether or not it poses a danger to you when you are driving around town in a rainstorm or standing too close to your kitchen window, check out the facts about lightning that follow.
What is lightning?
Lightning is a flash of electricity in the atmosphere that is discharged into the sky in the form of a high-voltage bolt. This electricity is characterized by a bright streak or flare of light that reaches from one storm cloud to another or from a storm cloud to the ground or the next-highest object, such as a tall tree, tower or structure. Lightning bolts that originate on the ground and reach upwards into the clouds are called "positive lightning" and are considered to be extremely dangerous forms of electricity. Bolts of lightning are typically followed by a clap of thunder which is caused by disturbances in the air known as a shockwaves. These shockwaves are created when the superheated air is forced to expand once the burst of electricity is released. Lightning strikes occur when the buildup of differing charges of electricity within storm clouds are released.
Can lightning go through glass?
If you find yourself on the road when a thunderstorm hits, chances are you will think your car is the safest place to be. Although staying within the confines of your vehicle will protect you from pouring rain and blowing wind, the glass in your windows won't keep you safe from the dangers posed by a strike of lightning. Although it may seem highly unlikely that lightning will strike your windshield unless you are in a desolate area in which you are the only car on the road and an easy target for a bolt of lightning that shoots straight from the clouds down to the ground, the electricity released by a thunderstorm in the form of lightning is powerful enough to shatter glass and burn through your window if it is hit directly. For this reason, it is recommended that you seek shelter indoors in a storm that produces lightning and that you stay away from windows until the storm has passed.
Safety during lightning storms
Despite the fact that lightning strikes through glass are extremely rare, due to their high voltage and the unpredictability of the location they will strike, it is better to be safe than sorry when it comes to protecting yourself during a thunderstorm. If you are in a vehicle when a lightning storm occurs, seek shelter in a nearby building and steer clear of exterior walls, particularly those comprised of windows. Because electricity can travel through plumbing systems and phone wires, it is also a good idea to avoid talking on cordless phones or using the shower or faucets. If you find yourself outside during a thunderstorm, seek shelter immediately or hunch low to the ground-never beneath a tree of any kind-with only your feet touching the soil to make yourself as tiny a target as possible.