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Lightning Strikes

by Toni Grundstrom

lightning storm

Lightning is Mother Nature's electrical power. It is responsible for more deaths per year than tornadoes. Know when there is severe weather approaching your area. Even if that storm is not right over you lightning bolts travel miles out from the base of the storm. You will not be able to dodge a lightning strike but you should know what to avoid, and how to be prepared, when there is bad weather.

Lightning strikes show how vulnerable we are to Mother Nature's power. Spring, and into summer, is peak season for the nation's deadliest weather phenomena. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration lightning safety information indicates that an average of 67 people are killed each year by lightning. Knowing how lightning enters a house or building and how to stay safe during a lightning storm may help protect you from injury and your personal property from damage.

There are three main ways lightning enters the home - a direct strike, through wires, or pipes that extend outside the structure and through the ground. Regardless of the method of entrance, once in the structure, the lightning can travel through the electrical, phone, plumbing, and radio/television reception systems. Lightning can also travel through any metal wires or bars in concrete walls or flooring.

To stay safe when you're inside your home during a lightning storm stay off your 'land line' phone, away from windows and doors and avoid doing the wash. Phone use is the leading cause of indoor lightning injuries in the United States. Lightning travels long distances in both phone and electrical wires and can reach you if you're using or near the appliance. Another direct path for a lightning direct-strike into your home is doors and windows. Concrete garage floors generally have wire mesh running through them so avoiding contact with that surface will also ensure more safety. Washers and dryers have contacts with electrical wires and plumbing pipes, both which can carry the lightning strike surge, but also contain a path from the outside through the dryer vent.

Protect items within your home, also. Remember your pets to ensure their safety. Dog houses, obviously, are not lightning safe and pets that are chained or in a wire kennel can easily become a victim to a lightning strike. Electrical surges produced by lightning can damage any electrical or electronic equipment. A surge protector will not protect this equipment from a lightning strike. Unplug your equipment, before the storm threatens, to ensure protection of this personal property.

Most lightning deaths and injuries occur in the summer. Where organized outdoor sports activities take place, coaches, camp counselors and other adults must stop activities at the first roar of thunder to ensure everyone time to get a large building or enclosed vehicle. Leaders of outdoors events should have a written plan that all staff are aware of and enforce.

If a person is struck by lightning, call 911 and get medical care immediately. Cardiac arrest and irregularities, burns, and nerve damage are common in cases where people are struck by lightning. However, with proper treatment, including CPR if necessary, most victims survive a lightning strike. You are in no danger helping a lightning victim. The charge will not affect you.

A little knowledge and some advanced warning of an approaching thunder storm will help protect you from the damaging effects lightning strikes cause and reduce your vulnerability to one of nature's deadliest hazards.

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