Pay attenion to lightning safety

Monday, June 19, 2006

Did you know lightning strikes the earth 100 times every second? And, each one is four times hotter than the sun, or up to 60,000 degrees Fahrenheit?

Men are six or seven times more likely to be struck by lightning than women, and ball lightning can sometimes float through a glass window without breaking it; other times, the glass is smashed to pieces.

When someone is struck by lightning, the rapid evaporation and expansion of sweat on their skin can literally "knock their socks off."

Lightning bolts can jump 10 miles or more from their parent cloud, becoming, literally, a "bolt from the blue."

The odds of being stuck by lightning are approximately 1 in 800,000.

In 1778, fashionable women of Paris never went out in blustery weather without a lightning rod attached to their hats.

Interesting "facts" gleaned from a quick Internet search, and who knows whether all or any of them are completely accurate, but one thing is for sure, lightning is nothing to be trifled with. Each year, lighting kills 50 to 100 people in the United States.

With more of us involved in outside activities this time of the year, now is a good time for a reminder of the danger of lightning and steps we can take to make ourselves safer.

This week, June 18-24, has been designated National Lightning Safety Awareness Week.

Experts say thunder is a "wake-up call" to warn us that lightning is getting closer. A good safety rule is: If you hear it, fear it. If you see it, flee it.

Normally, thunder can be heard up to 10 miles from the lightning that makes it. That 60,000-degree air produced by the lightning strike produces thunder that travels at the speed of sound, but the light, of course, travels at 186,000 miles per second.

So, if there is about 15 seconds between the flash and the thunder it produces, the lighting was about three miles away -- close enough that the next bolt could strike you. It's time to take shelter immediately. If you're outdoors with your family or sports team, make sure the children in your charge are out of danger.

Get off the golf course and stay away from trees. Sheds or small buildings aren't as safe as permanent structures, and vehicles with metal roofs are safer than being outside, but don't touch any metal surfaces.

Inside, stay away from hard-wired telephones, bathtubs and electrical appliances.

The best lightning defense is paying attention to the weather forecast, and staying out of its way before it ever arrives..

But next time you hear a storm approaching, take heart: for each lightning bolt that hits the ground, about 200,000 pounds of rain is also formed.

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