The water at the strike site boils into vapor. The electric potential at the American Miner USA Flag For A Coal Miner T Shirt site (possibly one million volts versus the ground state of the water (one million volts per one professor many years ago; measurements of lightning voltage are sparse)) will cause a voltage drop to remote earth ground (“earth ground” meaning to zero volts). The resistance of the water (less for salt water, more for fresh water) determines how far away the electric field takes to drop to zero. Within a near distance of the strike, the volts per meter will still cause a lethal shock potential. Lightning strikes on earth have caused fatal shocks for persons lying on the earth with one end of the body toward the strike and another end away from the strike because of voltage drops away from the strike, while others who were lying perpendicular to the strike/distance direction were not killed, because in the latter case the voltage drop was much smaller across the distance of the contact with the ground. I have personally seen the after-effects of lightning strikes . One hit a tree in a campground I was in. The lightning hit a tree, traveled down to the ground, and then into the ground. The ground under the tree was raised six inches above the surrounding ground out to the drip line of the tree (the effective range of the roots of the tree). That was because the water in the ground out to that distance boiled into steam and, effectively, exploded.
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