When thunder roars, go indoors!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Cheryl was calling her husband from home to warn him about the coming storm when it happened.

Todd was in his garage, fixing the exhaust system on his car.

Charles was having lunch in the park.

Doug and Susan were hiking near Greer, Ariz.

David was a 911 medical dispatcher on duty in southern Florida when it hit.

They can all tell us what they were doing, and where they were, because they were lucky enough to survive being struck by lighting.

They survived, but they still have symptoms from their encounter with natural electricity of the most powerful kind.

Cheryl has petit mal seizures. Todd suffered burns and has chronic pain and short term memory loss.

Doug hopes both eardrums will repair themselves, and Susan received burns like a spider web across her stomach and side.

David has severe headaches, deafness, short- and long-term memory loss and insomnia.

Like the humorous point one current commercial makes, most people struck by lightning -- 89 percent in 2007 -- were male.

Of those struck, 98 percent were outside, 30 percent were males between 20 and 25, 25 percent were standing under a tree and 25 percent were on or near the water.

There's nothing humorous about being struck by lightning, of course. An average of 62 people were killed in each of the last 30 years, the same number of deaths caused each year by tornadoes, but usually without the mass destruction of property.

In fact, while there are about 300 documented cases of lightning injury in the United States, the number of injuries that are not reported are likely much higher.

For National Lightning Safety Awareness Week next week, the National Weather Service has list of safety measures to learn, but emphasizes one simple point: When thunder roars, go indoors!

That's because lightning can strike as far as 10 miles from an area where it is raining. That's about the same distance you can hear thunder. So, if you can hear thunder, you are within striking distance. Seek safe shelter immediately.

Other tips:

* Watch for developing thunderstorms. As the sun heats the air, pockets of warmer air start to rise and cumulus clouds form. Continued heating can cause these clouds to grow vertically into towering cumulus clouds, the first sign of a developing thunderstorm.

* Minimize the risk of being struck during outdoor activities. Make sure organizers of outdoor sports agree to stop activities at the first roar of thunder to ensure everyone time to get to a large building or enclosed vehicle.

* Once inside, stay off corded phones, computers and other electrical equipment that puts you in direct contact with electricity. Stay away from pools, indoor or outdoor, tubs, showers and other plumbing. Buy surge suppressors for key equipment and install ground fault protectors on circuits near water or outdoors.

* If someone is struck by lightning, call 911 immediately and get medical care. With proper treatment, including CPR if necessary, most victims survive a lightning strike.

In summary, according to the NWS, with common sense, you can greatly increase your safety and the safety of those you are with. At the first clap of thunder, get into a large building or fully enclosed vehicle and stay there until 30 minutes after the last clap of thunder.

Lightning Safety Overview


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