It Happens …cogitations on calamities, cataclysms and catastrophes, preventing, preparing and pulling through

EXTRA! EXTRA!…Lightning Edition!

“The wrathful skies…Such sheets of fire, such bursts of horrid thunder, Such groans of roaring wind and rain,”

(W. Shakespeare, King Lear, Act III Scene ii)

Just what is lightning? Is it the anger of a certain Greek God (there she goes again…talking about those ancient Greeks) thrown to smite and destroy? Is it aliens sending signals? Blinking bugs on a summer night?  Maybe it’s just some positively and negatively charged particles meeting up. NOAA has this to say: “Lightning is a giant spark of electricity in the atmosphere between clouds, the air or the ground.”

Unless you are a pilot or a frequent flyer, you are likely most concerned about air to ground lightning. Air to ground lightning, while unpredictable, generally strikes taller objects such as buildings and trees. Strikes is not necessarily the most accurate word but without waxing too scientific, let’s simplify by saying that a storm cloud begins sending a negative charge towards the ground. The ground is already positively charged and reaches out towards the negative charge.  When the negative and the positive meet, we see the flash of electrical transfer we know as lightning.

So what to do?

“When thunder roars, go indoors.  See a flash, dash inside!” And I don’t mean inside your beach shack that has an open wall.  A house, school or office building will do.  If you can’t get inside a building, a car, a van or bus with the windows rolled up is the next best thing.  While inside a vehicle, it is important not to touch metal parts of the car.  A convertible car, even with the top up, is not safe.  Next…stay away from electrical appliances, windows and plumbing fixtures, that shower or bath will have to wait until half an hour after the last thunder rumbles have quieted. If you are out and about and have absolutely nowhere to shelter, NEVER try to use a lone tree for shelter, a thick patch of small trees is safer. If you are stuck out in the open: get to the lowest spot and make yourself as small as possible by bending your knees, put your hands on your knees and tuck your head in. The above advice may seem a little extreme but the fact is that lightning can strike more than ten miles away from where rain is falling.  If you can hear the thunder, you are within striking distance.

Fast Facts from NOAA:

  • A typical lightning flash is roughly 300 million volts, household electrical current is 120 volts.
  • Lightning can heat the air it pass through to 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit, that is 5 times hotter than the surface of the sun!
  • If you see a lightning flash and count the number of seconds until you hear the thunder, you can divide the number of seconds by 5 and you will know how many miles away the lighting bolt was from you.

Stay safe and have a great summer!

By Shayna Deitchman, AmeriCorps Disaster Case Manager

#DisasterServicesCCKCSJ #ItHappensCCKCSJ

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