Posted on June 29, 2011 | 3:43 pm Print
One aspect of thunderstorms is lightning. Each year, about 400 people in the U.S. are struck by lightning while working outside, at sports events, at the lake, mountain climbing or biking, mowing the lawn or during other outdoor activities. Nearly 80 lightning strike victims are killed and several hundred are left to cope with permanent disabilities. Many of these tragedies can be avoided. Finishing the game, getting a tan, or completing a work shift are not worth the risk of death or a crippling injury.
Lightning strike near Pullman, WA 6/29/03.
Lightning often strikes as far as 10 miles aways from any rainfall, and has been documented to strike up to 70 miles away from the thunderstorm which generated the lighting. Many lightning victims are struck ahead of the storm or shortly after the storm has passed.
Summer is the U.S. lightning season, though it can strike year round. In summer, more people are outside, on the beach, golf courses, mountains or ball fields. Outdoor jobs such as construction and agriculture, and outdoors chores such as lawn mowing or house painting are at their peak, putting those involved in danger.
Outdoors is the most dangerous place to be during a thunderstorm. Watch for darkening cloud bases and head to safety before that first lightning flash. IF YOU CAN HEAR THUNDER…THE STORM IS CLOSE ENOUGH THAT IT COULD STRIKE YOUR LOCATION AT ANY MOMENT. If lightning is forecast, plan an alternate activity or know where you can take cover quickly.
WHEN OUTSIDE, go quickly inside a completely enclosed sturdy building when lightning approaches. If no enclosed building is nearby, get inside a hard topped metal-framed vehicle. Make sure all windows are closed, since lightning can pass through any open air space. Avoid sheds, picnic shelters, baseball dugouts, and bleachers. Also avoid carports, open garages, and covered patios. A cave is a good option, but move as far as possible from its entrance.
WHEN IN THE FOREST, don’t be the tallest object around. In the mountains, do not remain above the treeline if lightning threatens. Never seek shelter under an isolated tree or a small grouping of trees. If in a heavily forecasted area, seek shelter in a low spot away from the taller trees. If there is no shelter, sqat low to the ground, clasp your hands around your knees and put your chin to your chest, making yourself the smallest target possible and minimizing contact with the ground.
WHEN ON A PATH OR COURSE, Get off bicycles. Avoid metal. Drop metal framed backpacks. Stay away from fences and metal sheds. Put down golf clubs, fishing rods, tennis rackets or tools.
WHEN ON THE WATER, get out. Water is great conductor of electricity. Stay away from the beach and out of small boats. If in a boat, crouch down in the center of the boat away from the metal hardware. Lightning can strike water and travel some distance beneath and away from its point of contact.
Lightning injuries can lead to permanent disabilities or death. If someone is struck by lightning, call 911 or your local ambulance service. Give first aid as quickly as possible. If the victim has stopped breathing, begin rescue breathing. If the heart has stopped beating, a trained person should give CPR. If the person has a pulse and is breathing, address any other injuries. People struck by lightning carry no electrical charge that can shock other people. You can examine them without risk.
DONT FORGET TO BE SAFE INDOORS
Key Indoor Lightning Tips
- Stay OFF corded phones. You can use cellular or cordless phones
- Don’t touch electrical equipment or cords. Unplug electronic equipment before the storm arrives.
- Avoid plumbing. Do not wash your hands, take a shower or wash dishes.
- Stay away from windows and doors, and stay off porches. Do not lie on concrete floors and do not lean against concrete walls.
What is a Safe Shelter?
A safe shelter is a building with electricity and/or plumbing or a hard topped vehicle with windows closed. Picnic shelters, dugouts, small buildings without plumbing or electricity are NOT safe.
Remember Your Pets
Dog houses are not safe shelters. Dogs that are chained to trees or chained to wire runners can easily fall victim to a lightning strike. Bring pets inside.
Protect Your Personal Property
In addition to direct strikes, lightning generates electrical surges that can damage electronic equipment some distance from the actual strike. Typical surge protectors will NOT protect equipment from a lightning strike. The American Meteorological Society has tips for protecting your electronics from lightning. Do NOT unplug equipment during a thunderstorm as there is a risk you could be struck.
How Lightning Enters a House or Building
There are three main ways lightning enters homes and buildings:
- A direct strike
- Through wires or pipes that extend outside the structure
- Through the ground.
Regardless of the method of entrance, once in a structure, the lightning can travel through the electrical, phone, plumbing, and radio/television reception systems. Lightning can also travel through any metal wires or bars in concrete walls or flooring.