Lightning Strikes Can Leave Tree-Like Marks
By angelamontana


grasslightningHave you ever seen what can happen when lightning strikes the ground?  (See the picture of the grass on the right).  How about what can happen when lightning strikes a person?

“Interestingly, when lightning strikes some people they develop Lichtenberg figures across their skin. For example, a 2000 report from the New England Journal of Medicine described the case of a 54-year-old man who was struck by lightning. He was initially stuporous, but by the time he got to the emergency room he seemed well and upon further examination it was discovered that he had a fern-leaf pattern of painless cutaneous marks across his arm, back and leg. The marks disappeared just two days later.”  (via iflscience.com)”

This 54-year-old man was struck by lightning and was initially out of it, but by the time he got to the emergency room he seemed well and upon further examination it was discovered that he had a fern-leaf pattern of "painless cutaneous marks across his arm, back and leg". The marks disappeared two days later. (photo credit: Domart and Garet, NEJM)

(photo credit: Domart and Garet, NEJM)

According to the iflscience article, the pattern is “likely” caused by “the rupture of capillaries beneath the skin from the electrical discharge”. The medical terms for this are arborescent (tree-like) erythema or keraunographic markings.   Keep in mind that this is extremely rare, though, so do NOT intentionally shock yourself and try to recreate these.  Most people hit by lightning are injured and many even killed.

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Winston Kemp, ironically an electrician, was struck by lightning back in 2011 whilst saving his pumpkins from a storm. He didn’t even notice he was struck until the marks appeared on his arm around an hour after he returned indoors. His arm then started to feel sore and blisters appeared. His marks lasted for over a month, although they faded within the first month to a pale pink color. (photo credit Winston Kemp’s Lichtenberg figure, via BBC news)

Safety first!  Hikers, campers, hunters, trappers and anglers are all susceptible to experiencing lightning strikes and the occasional thunderstorm.  Anglers should be extremely cautious, as water can be a very dangerous conductor while caught in a storm with lightning.

(Feature photo via techeblog.com)






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