Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Protection from Lightning Hazards


This Audi was struck by lightning.

     One of my family members was in an outbuilding with a metal roof last year, when the building itself was struck by lightning.  Despite the building being normally grounded, our family member received a glancing lightning injury which resulted in a hearing deficit for several days, and some leg pain, as apparently, the lightning grounding through our family member's legs.  We will need to provide additional lightning protection to our outbuildings in the form of lightning rods and extra grounding, but that will be the subject of another post.  This post will center on the avoidance of being struck by either a direct or glancing blow of lightning.
              Lightning strikes are not nearly as rare as we were once taught.  In fact, we have met quite a few people, since our personal experience here, who have been struck by lightning, or who have a horse or dog who was killed by it, or sustained home or barn damage from lightning. According to the Chicago Tribune, 82% of lightning strikes to individuals happen to males, and only 18% to females.  This either means that females are substantially brighter than males with regard to lightning avoidance, or it means, more likely, that men are doing a disproportionate amount of work outside as storms are approaching.  (It was a joke, please don't send hate e-mail)    According to the Journal of Environmental Health, lightning strikes cause more deaths than any other type of natural disasters combined.  (This was a 2005 figure, and might be a little different now)  There are approximately 80 deaths annually in the US from lightning, but many more people live and have serious injuries.  Interestingly, the American South has the highest incidence of lightning injury of human beings.   Interestingly, the man who holds the record for the highest number of lightning strikes personally, was a park ranger in Shenandoah National Park, in Virginia, not all that far from here.  Roy Sullivan was struck seven times in his lifetime and these strikes were verified by physicians.   Even if human beings are not killed by a lightning strike, many of them suffer devastating, serious injuries.  Many endure depression afterward, potential cardiac  arrhythmias, neurological issues, seizures,   organ dysfunctions, circulatory system damage, or burns.       Keraunomedicine is the branch of medicine which deals with injuries from lightning strikes.
                How can we avoid being struck by lightning ?  First, we can go indoors to diminish our chance of being hit, at the moment we see lightning even very distantly, or when we hear thunder.  Secondly, you can avoid doing dishes, using the toilet, or a landline telephone hooked up to the wall ,during a storm.  Chances are small that one will be struck within a home, but the chance exists.  It is possible also to be struck while simply looking out a window.    We used to be taught that it was not possible to be struck by lightning in a car, but this is not strictly true. It may not happen often, but a lightning strike in a car can move the car significantly, damage it, and actually move the people within the car.   Generally, a car is better grounded than many things, and so people inside the car are generally spared fatalities, but this is important news.
               No one really knows why some people are struck by lightning repeatedly.  We do know that it is an old wive's tale that "lightning won't strike twice in the same place".   I can personally assure you that it can and will, and have missing old oak border trees to prove it.
               There are some additional rules for hikers or people outdoors who may not be close enough to head indoors.

    1. Do most of your outdoor farm work or hiking or surveying in the morning before storms usually occur.

    2. Listen to weather reports.

    3. Learn to read the sky and clouds as indicators of impending thunderstorms.

    4. Make sure you stay off high ridges or hills when storms are brewing.

    5. Although lightning can strike without any warning to people whatsoever, some people have noticed that their hair stands on end.  If this ever happens, drop to the ground immediately.

   6. Do not hide under trees in a storm.  If the tree is struck it will ground through you as well.

   7. When indoors, stay away from pipes, electrical appliances, windows, phones, and water sources such as toilets and sinks etc.


These are excellent web references on lightning strike avoidance and general information:

This is the Decision Tree as Provided by the National Lightning Safety Institute

Decision Tree for Personal Lightning Safety

by Richard Kithil, President &CEO, NLSI
NLSI recommends that all organizations prepare a Lightning Safety Plan and inform all personnel of its contents. In a sentence, lightning safety is "anticipating a high-risk situation and moving to a low-risk location." Lightning Safety Plans should be site-specific, but they all share a common outline:
1. Advanced warning of the hazard. Some options:
1.1 "If you can see it, flee it; If you can hear it, clear it."
1.2 TV Weather Channel; NOAA Weather Radio
1.3 Fancy lightning detectors; off-site meteorological services
2. Make decision to suspend activities and notify people.
2.1 The 30/30 Rule says to shut down when lightning is six miles away. Use a "flash to bang" (lightning to thunder) count of five seconds equals one mile (10 = 2 miles; 20 = 4 miles; 30 = 6 miles).
2.2 Notify people via radio, siren or other means.
3. Move to safe location.
3.1 A large permanent building or metal vehicle is best.
3.2 Unsafe places are near metal or water; under trees; on hills; near electrical/electronics equipment.
4. Reassess the hazard.
It’s usually safe after no thunder and no lightning have been observed for thirty minutes. Be conservative here.
5. Inform people to resume activities.



This is significant lightning damage to a home.  (Photo:


Dani said...

No getting into, or, if already in one, getting out of a hot bath will also help prevent being struck by lightning indoors.

Turn of your TV.

Also, if you have a modem, disconnect it from your computer to prevent your machine from being fried (I've had this happen twice!)

And yes, I, too, believe that women are struck less times than males, because we are brighter LOL If we hear thunder whilst working outdoors, then we generally head indoors. Perhaps it's also got to do with multi-tasking...? :)

kymber said...

bahahahahaha - Dani - that last bit was great!

Jane...i never have anything useful to add to your posts and therefore don't comment. and it just occurred to me that i never comment here. but i want you to know that jambaloney and i read every single one of your posts. he just said that he never has anything to add either...but always leaves a little more knowledgeable. so we both want you to know how much we appreciate the time it takes to write these kinds of posts. i think that you have a lot of readers as the information is so well-presented...i also think that those readers are like us. they come here for information and get it. and maybe don't have anything to add.

i could write "great post" or "thanks for the excellent information" or "good job" and i would mean it very sincerely. but i see comments like that on other people's blogs and i hope that they aren't just being lazy.

i guess my point is that i truly appreciate the comments that you leave on our blog. and i will try very hard in the future to come up with relevant comments for your posts. i know absolutely nothing about lightning as lightning never touches the ground here, it is always out on the ocean - and beautiful to watch i might add!

long drawn-out comment to say that i have only now just realized that i never comment and that that might make you wonder or feel hurt. that is not the case at all. i read all of your posts...and always walk away thinking. there are no other words to compliment you on your excellent information and presentation that i can think of. i always walk away thinking.

your friend,

JaneofVirginia said...

Kymber, I always appreciate your comments, and you know I love reading your blog. Thank you so much for commenting. Fondly,