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Lightning strike rips bark off tree in Penhook

Marie Mayhew found this tree had been stripped clean after a storm in Penhook
Lightning struck a tree exploding the bark off.
Lightning struck a tree exploding the bark off.(WDBJ7)
Published: Aug. 13, 2020 at 10:17 AM EDT|Updated: Aug. 14, 2020 at 5:08 PM EDT
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PENHOOK, Va. (WDBJ) - Lightning strikes somewhere in the United States 20 million times per year but discovering a tree that’s truck by lightning is often like finding a needle in a haystack.

Marie Mayhew shared photos of a tree near the Waters Edge Country Club in Penhook that had been stripped of its bark. Turns out, it was the victim of a direct lightning strike.

Lightning stuck a tree in Penhook, ripping the bark off.
Lightning stuck a tree in Penhook, ripping the bark off.(Marie Mayhew)

When lightning strikes a tree, the electrical current creates intense heat that’s five times hotter than the surface of the sun. The electricity heats up the water and sap stored inside the trunk of the tree and causes it to boil. The resulting steam results in the bark virtually exploding off in large strips. Some trees may explode from the center of the tree, while others may have a narrow, but long, split in the trunk.

In rare cases, the lightning strike is so intense that it can travel into the roots of the tree and cause them to explode underground. Such is the case in Marie’s photo below. This is often why so many livestock perish each year from standing under a tree, as the whole ground becomes electrified.

Never use a tree as a shelter during a thunderstorm.

Lightning traveled into the roots of the tree where it boiled the water and cause them to explode.
Lightning traveled into the roots of the tree where it boiled the water and cause them to explode.(Marie Mayhew)

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