Wet Clothes Improve Lightning Survival

Minnesota survives a jolt while trying to save patio furniture
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Minnesota survives a jolt while trying to save patio furniture

OK, if you're going to voluntarily go out into a lightning storm just to keep your metal patio furniture safe, you've already made a pretty bad decision. But let's say you're committed. In that case, you better hope your clothes are wet.

Doctors think that's what might have saved a Minnesota man who did just that. The wet clothes likely conducted the 50,000-degree bolt of plasma away from Kent Lilyerd's body, sparing him from a complete frying. He spent the next two hours passing in and out of consciousness while his wife, a nurse who heard nothing, slept soundly inside the house.

When paramedics finally arrived, they found the lightning-struck man with "dilated pupils" and "very labored breathing," noting that the situation "wasn't looking good." Nevertheless, Lilyerd is expected to be discharged from the hospital with no major lasting injuries — though lightning-strike survivors often report lingering difficulties like tingling extremities and cataracts months or even years later.

In a veritable orgy of poor planning, Lilyerd wore 1) a baseball cap with a metal button, which initially attracted the lightning, 2) steel-toed work boots, which caused the lightning to re-enter at his feet, and 3) he had a bullet in his pocket, which popped but miraculously didn't fire.

On the luck scale, I'd say Lilyerd should've played the lottery that day.

To find out how lightning ranks against other outdoor dangers like bears, falls, and avalanches, look for BACKPACKER's Terror Index in our October Survival Issue, on newsstands in about a week.

— Ted Alvarez

Man trying to save furniture struck by lightning (cbs11tv.com)

Via The Goat