Avoid Lightning

How Not To Get Hit By Lightning
by: H. Michael Cook

 

There is nothing more relaxing than observing a thunder and lightning storm, from a distance that is. The occasional flash of lightning followed by a gentle rumbling are refreshing to most of us. We might even find ourselves doing the one to five count to see how many miles away the storm is. Since sound travels at approximately ll00 feet per second and a mile is 5,280 feet then approximately every five seconds after the flash of lightning till you hear the thunder is about 1 mile away. For example, if you can count to fifteen then the storm is about three miles away, count to 10, then it is two miles away.

This relaxation though, can take on a whole different mood swing if suddenly the leaves start moving and a breeze picks up. Your revised one to five count indicates the storm is heading your way in a hurry. You go into the panic mode. Are my car windows up? Is the umbrella on my deck table still up? What about the kids playing in the back yard? The dog is out and totally goes bonkers when a storm comes. What if the electricity goes off? Do I have drinking water ahead? There is not much time to react but you do what you can.

Sure you are worried about all these things but the safety of your family is the most important thing. Even though some of the best weather stations on your television and radios may be warning you, unless you are tuned in, you may be caught off guard.

The truth of the matter is that not all thunderstorms are equal. There are 4 different types of thunderstorms, from the least called a “single cell” storm ranging to the worst, a “super cell” storm. Hurricanes are rated, from a category 1 hurricane to a category 5 hurricane. A category 5 hurricane can be over 200 miles per hour and bring devastating destruction being a storm of such great magnitude.

During a “super cell” thunder and lightning storm much damage can be done by accompanying strong winds, hail or massive downpours of rain. Trees can be toppled, electric lines are broken or damaged, even death can occur to animals and to humans.

People on beaches and golf courses and outdoors in rural areas are at highest risk because they are not protected from electrical spikes.

I am an avid golfer but do not get to go often as I would like to. I have been caught several times out on the golf course when a sudden thunder and lightning storm has arisen. I hate for the weather to spoil my game but really being in the open, in a field or on a golf course is very dangerous. Holding a golf club, especially with steel shafts in your hands is like a lightning magnet. A natural tendency is to run for cover, usually under a tree which is one of the worst places for animals and people to be because a tree is more apt to be hit than a short object in the open. Sometimes cattlemen lose many of their herd as the animals take cover under a tree and that tree is hit by lightning. Often whatever is under that tree gets a tremendous electrical charge.

A few of the golf courses I have played have shelters on the course for such sudden changes of weather which I have really appreciated. Usually these storms do not last but a few minutes so it is better to stop your game for a few minutes and go to a safe location before the storm actually hits.

Safety should be the number one consideration. About 30% of people who get struck by lightning are killed. Others who do and get quick medical attention, live to tell about it, and do not think that lightning never strikes twice in the same place. That is a myth. What attracted the lightning in the first place to one area can be just as attractive when another storm comes.

The following are some things to do and not to do depending where you are before or during a severe thunder and lightning storm.

Lightning over Pentagon City in Arlington, Vir...

Lightning over Pentagon City in Arlington, Virginia. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Outdoor Safety Tips:

* If you are operating any device with attachments, such as kites or electronic equipment with wires, cease immediately * Do not hold any items in your hands that are made of metal or any other objects, especially if these are extended or over your head such as a fishing rod, an umbrella or a golf club. * Do not put yourself in contact with other permanent objects that are of metal content, metal buildings, a fence or clothesline. * Avoid standing under tall objects such as trees especially if these objects are the tallest structures in your location * Try to find shelter in a protected structure, a car or truck with tires. This is safer than being in the open. Avoid small shelters like a tent. * If there is no safe haven nearby and you are in the open, crouch down. * If you are wearing any metallic items, remove these, especially those on your head as your head will probably be the highest point. * Try to be lower than objects that are around you * If you feel static electricity or your hair stands up, move away to a different location, immediately * Do not ride open transportation, such as a bicycle, 4-wheeler or any open vehicle. * If you are in water, leave the water immediately at the first sign of thunder and lightning. Water is a great conductor of electricity. * If you are in a hard topped vehicle with rubber tires, try not to park under tall structures that are likely to be hit by lightning and while in these vehicle do not touch metal items in the vehicle. Indoor Safety Tips:

* If using land line phones or any electrical appliances or entertainment devices which require a cord attached to electrical outlets, please cease these functions.

* Stay away from windows or any electrical objects that are still connected to electricity

* Avoid any items that are metal, such as pipes, fixtures, electronic device or any appliances.

* If an emergency requires use of a phone, use a cell phone or if using a land line phone, be very brief. If you do not have an emergency it is better not to use a land line telephone. Cell phones are not connected to any wires and are safe however if you as a person are in a place most likely to be hit by lightning, you can be hit whether or not there is a cell phone in your hand.

* If you have advance warning, disconnect your electrical items and appliances like toasters, microwaves, televisions and computers, modems, etc. Using a high quality surge protector with built in circuit breaker may protect your equipment.

* Owning your own personal weather station could save your life and your electrical equipment. You do not want just an ordinary model that only tells you the time and temperature but rather you want one of the best weather stations. Preferably a model equipped with a “severe weather warning” or a Storm “weather alarm” feature that can give you more advance notice of an approaching storm system.

If you have a barometer, or the newer type digital weather stations with a built in barometer pressure history graph then you will see low barometer pressure forecast. Usually severe weather occurs when the pressure is low in the 28-29.5 ranges or lower. In conclusion, if we stay safety conscious, if we are aware of what to do and not to do in one of these storms, then actually follow these guidelines. Anything that will help us to get faster warnings will be worth it. Ignoring warnings can be fatal but hopefully we will not have to face these storms with fear but rather with caution and good sense.

 

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