Lightning is very fickle – it can strike the most unexpected places and cause the most unexpected damage. Trees tend to be regular lightning victims. Understanding how lightning strikes and how to protect your trees can keep you grounded.
Gone in Seconds
It takes years to grow a large, magnificent tree. It takes only seconds for lightning to strike one down. Unfortunately, more than half of the trees struck by lightning eventually die. For some trees, the damage is visible in the form of streaks of missing bark on branches or trunks. On others, the damage is in the roots and soon appears in the form of wilting leaves.
Lightning Likes Trees
Trees attract lightning because they provide a path for lightning to travel from the storm cloud to the earth. Tall trees, trees in open areas, trees that grow near bodies of water, trees on the edge of a grove, trees on hilltops or trees located close to buildings with wiring and plumbing are the most attractive lightning targets. Lightning most often strikes oak, elm, pine, tulip, cottonwood, ash, maple, sycamore, hemlock and spruce trees.
Using a system of heavy, copper cables, lightning protection systems may not prevent trees from being struck, but they can help ensure lightning harmlessly conducts into the soil.