Lightning Safety and Awareness: Part 2

Colorado is such a great state for outdoor activities.  We see a lot of sunshine and temperatures are usually pretty nice anytime of year.  During the Summer, thunderstorms can sometimes taint those nice conditions.  Today's topic, courtesy of the National Weather Service in Pueblo, talks about Outdoor Lightning Safety.  Again, some great tips...

Outdoor Lightning Safety

 COLORADO LIGHTNING SAFETY AND WILDFIRE AWARENESS WEEK CONTINUES THROUGH SATURDAY.  YESTERDAY WE DISCUSSED THE SCIENCE OF LIGHTNING.  TODAY WE WILL COVER OUTDOOR LIGHTNING SAFETY.

 OUTDOORS IS THE MOST DANGEROUS PLACE TO BE DURING A THUNDERSTORM.  EACH YEAR...MANY PEOPLE IN THE UNITED STATES ARE STRUCK BY LIGHTNING WHILE WORKING OUTSIDE...AT SPORTS EVENTS...ON THE BEACH...MOUNTAIN CLIMBING...MOWING THE LAWN OR DURING OTHER OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES.  IN 2007...45 PEOPLE IN THE UNITED STATES WERE KILLED AND HUNDREDS MORE WERE SURVIVORS OF A LIGHTNING STRIKE.  NINETY EIGHT PERCENT OF ALL LIGHTNING VICTIMS IN 2007 WERE OUTDOORS. 

 

 

IN COLORADO...SINCE 1959 THERE HAVE BEEN 134 DOCUMENTED LIGHTNING FATALITIES AND HUNDREDS OF OTHERS WHO WERE INJURED BY LIGHTNING. 

LIGHTNING OCCASIONALLY STRIKES AS FAR AS 10 MILES AWAY FROM ANY RAINFALL...AND HAS BEEN DOCUMENTED TO STRIKE UP TO 20 MILES AWAY FROM THE THUNDERSTORM WHICH GENERATED THE LIGHTNING.  MANY LIGHTNING VICTIMS ARE STRUCK AHEAD OF THE STORM OR SHORTLY AFTER THE STORM HAS PASSED.   

 SUMMER IS THE MAIN LIGHTNING SEASON...THOUGH IT CAN STRIKE YEAR ROUND.  SUMMER IS ALSO THE PEAK SEASON FOR OUTDOOR WORK AND RECREATION…PUTTING THOSE INVOLVED IN POTENTIAL DANGER.  STAY TUNED TO NOAA ALL HAZARDS WEATHER RADIO.  IF THUNDERSTORMS ARE IN THE FORECAST...PLAN AN ALTERNATE ACTIVITY OR MAKE PLANS TO QUICKLY SEEK SHELTER.

 WATCH FOR DARKENING CLOUD BASES OR RAPIDLY GROWING CUMULUS CLOUDS AND HEAD TO SAFETY BEFORE THAT FIRST LIGHTNING FLASH.  IF YOU CAN HEAR THUNDER...THE STORM IS CLOSE ENOUGH THAT LIGHTNING COULD STRIKE YOUR LOCATION AT ANY MOMENT...AND YOU SHOULD IMMEDIATELY SEEK PROTECTION.

 ONE RESPONSE FOR LIGHTNING PROTECTION IS TO EMPLOY THE 30 30 RULE.  IF THE TIME BETWEEN THE LIGHTNING FLASH AND THUNDER IS LESS THAN 30 SECONDS...LIGHTNING EXPERTS SUGGEST HEADING TO SHELTER IMMEDIATELY.  THEN WAIT 30 MINUTES AFTER THE LAST SOUND OF THUNDER IS HEARD BEFORE RESUMING OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES.

 IT IS VERY IMPORTANT THAT ALL SPORTS LEAGUES AND OTHER OUTDOOR GROUPS HAVE A LIGHTNING RESPONSE PLAN THAT IS UNDERSTOOD AND CONSISTENTLY APPLIED FOR THE SAFETY OF THE PARTICIPANTS. PART OF THE PLAN WOULD INCLUDE A DESIGNATED WEATHER WATCHER AT EACH OUTDOOR EVENT WITH THE AUTHORITY TO POSTPONE OR CANCEL THE EVENT DUE TO THE THREAT OF LIGHTNING.

 WHEN LIGHTNING THREATENS...

MOVE QUICKLY INTO AN ENCLOSED STURDY BUILDING .  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 AN OPEN AIR SPACE. AVOID SHEDS...PICNIC SHELTERS…BASEBALL DUGOUTS...AND BLEACHERS. ALSO AVOID CARPORTS AND COVERED PATIOS.  A CAVE CAN BE AN OPTION WHEN NO OTHER SHELTERS EXIST...BUT MOVE AS FAR AWAY AS POSSIBLE FROM THE CAVE ENTRANCE.

DO NOT BE THE TALLEST OBJECT AROUND.  IN THE MOUNTAINS...DO NOT REMAIN ABOVE TREE LINE IF LIGHTNING THREATENS.  NEVER SEEK SHELTER UNDER AN ISOLATED TREE OR A SMALL GROUP OF TREES.  IF IN A HEAVILY FORESTED AREA...SEEK SHELTER IN A LOW SPOT AND AWAY FROM THE TALLER TREES.

IF THERE IS NO SHELTER...

GET OFF BICYCLES AND MOTORCYCLES. AVOID METAL…SINCE METAL OBJECTS ARE GOOD CONDUCTORS OF ELECTRICITY.  SO DON'T HOLD ON TO FISHING RODS…GOLF CLUBS…TENNIS RACKETS OR METAL TOOLS DURING A THUNDERSTORM.  DROP METAL FRAMED BACKPACKS.  STAY AWAY FROM CLOTHES LINES…FENCES AND METAL SHEDS.

GET OUT OF THE WATER…SINCE WATER IS A GREAT CONDUCTOR OF ELECTRICITY. STAY OFF THE BEACH AND OUT OF SMALL BOATS. IF CAUGHT IN A BOAT…CROUCH DOWN IN THE CENTER OF THE BOAT AWAY FROM METAL HARDWARE.  LIGHTNING CAN STRIKE WATER AND TRAVEL SOME DISTANCE BENEATH AND AWAY FROM ITS POINT OF CONTACT.

DO NOT STAY HUDDLED IN A GROUP WHEN CAUGHT OUTDOORS WITH NO SHELTER. A RECOMMENDATION BY THE NATIONAL LIGHTNING SAFETY INSTITUTE IS TO SEPARATE AT LEAST 15 FEET AWAY FROM EACH OTHER WHEN LIGHTNING THREATENS.

LIGHTNING INJURIES CAN LEAD TO PERMANENT DISABILITIES OR DEATH.  IF SOMEONE IS STRUCK BY LIGHTNING ...CALL 9 1 1 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 CARDIOPULMONARY RESUSCITATION.  IF THE PERSON HAS A PULSE AND IS BREATHING...ADDRESS ANY OTHER INJURIES.  PEOPLE STRUCK BY LIGHTNING DO NOT CARRY AN ELECTRICAL CHARGE…AND CAN BE EXAMINED WITHOUT RISK.

HERE IS THE LIGHTNING QUESTION OF THE DAY...

WHAT OUTDOOR LOCATIONS IN THE UNITED STATES HAVE THE GREATEST NUMBER OF LIGHTNING STRIKE FATALITIES?

ANSWER…FOR THE PERIOD BETWEEN 1998 AND 2007…MORE PEOPLE WERE KILLED WHILE WORKING OR RECREATING IN OPEN FIELDS OR ON EXPOSED TERRAIN THAN ANY OTHER IDENTIFIABLE LOCATION.  THE NEXT MOST COMMON LOCATION FOR LIGHTNING FATALITIES WAS UNDER TREES…FOLLOWED BY THOSE IN BOATS AND IN THE WATER.

THE LIGHTNING TOPIC FOR TOMORROW WILL BE ON SAFE SHELTERS AND INDOOR LIGHTNING SAFETY.

Chief Meteorologist Brian Bledsoe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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