Glancing at the evening weather report I see that we are once again in a thunder storm warning. Although this is a common summer time occurrence it is still something to be concerned about. It has been said that at anytime one can count over 2000 thunderstorms alive and active somewhere around the globe.
That’s a lot of potential lightning. Lightning is a frequent compliment to the thunder storms. I am certain you recall hearing the old tale that lightning never strikes the same place twice. Well, I am here to tell you that is not necessarily true. It is completely possible for lightning to strike at the same location more then once. When I lived out west, I noticed that the lightning would always hit the same areas with consistent frequency, so much for that urban legend.
Although the death rate associated with lightning is small it is still significant. These few deaths could have been prevented had the individuals concerned used some common sense and followed a few safety rules. When considering how to handle lightning a few simple facts must be understood. First, lightning can often travel a distance of 60 miles or more however, the average span is usually 10 miles. As for its impending danger a lightning bolt can reach a temperature of over 50,000 degrees F. That equates to about five times the temperature of our sun. Certainly sounds like something we should not mess with.
A few simple precautions can save your life when confronted with a sudden thunderstorm and its associated lightning. First off always stay alert. If you are able to you should monitor your local weather conditions via radio.
If you are normally out in the open a lot you should learn how to recognize the signs associated with an oncoming thunder storm. These are towering clouds similar to a “cauliflower” type of shape, exceptionally dark skies, and distant thunder sounds. When you encounter these conditions you should seek indoor shelter immediately.
Don’t wait until the storm is directly upon you for if you do it may be too late. Find a large building or if you are traveling in a car remain inside with the windows up. When seeking shelter avoid any small shed. Never seek shelter in a pavilion.
When inside keep a few feet distance between any window and yourself. Avoid being near open windows, toilets, sinks, tubs, electric boxes or appliances. Lightning is capable of flowing through the lines and bridging to the people standing nearby. Never take a shower or bath during a thunderstorm.
Avoid the use of conventional telephones except in a dire emergency. Lightning that has struck a telephone line has been known to travel the line and literally melt the house phones. Cell phones are safe to use during these conditions.
In the event that you are unfortunately caught outside and you are unable to get to a shelter there are certain actions that could save your life. Find a low spot that is far away from any trees, metallic fences, or tall objects. Look for areas where shorter trees are growing. Crouch yourself down but away from the tree trunks. Thus may sound strange and unusual but in the event that your skin starts to tingles or your hair feels like its standing on end then perhaps a lightning strike is about to occur. In that situation you should crouch down on the balls of your feet keeping your feet close together. Place your hands on your knees and slowly lower your head. The point here is for you to get as low as you possibly can without touching your hands or knees to the ground. Never lay down on the ground.
If you are in an open space such as swimming, boating or fishing and the sky starts to get extremely dark and you can hear slight distant rumbles get to land immediately and then seek an adequate shelter. If you are in your boat and find it impossible to get to shore then crouch down in the middle of your boat or if possible go below. A little common sense can go a long way with surviving lightning storms.
By Joseph Parish
Copyright @2010 Joseph Parish