Lightning is a common feature of many spring and summer storms. The loud, cracking noise and bright flashes generally signal danger, but many people are unsure of how close the danger is or what they should do to protect themselves. Here are some tips to keep you safe when lightning season threatens your outdoor activities:
What Causes Lighting?
Lightning is caused by electrical activity inside and between clouds. The turbulence within clouds causes water droplets to rise where they become ice crystals. These crystals are then pushed downwards, where electrons are stripped off. The negatively charged lower areas of clouds produce a strong electrical field that escape the insulating properties of the atmosphere, producing the powerful noise and light effects. The electrical charge then gets sent to the ground, creating the hazard of electrical strike.
Know the Conditions When Lightning Is Likely
Staying alert to weather conditions can help you to avoid conditions where lightning is likely to occur. Always check the weather report before engaging in outdoor activities in spring and summer. Keep an eye on the cloud cover as the day progresses. If you see gathering clouds, “cauliflower-shaped” clouds, or dark clouds, start looking for indoor shelter. If you hear thunder in the distance or see flashes of lightning in the distance, take cover immediately.
What To Do When Caught in Lightning
Even if you are careful, you may find yourself outdoors when lighting occurs. You can protect yourself by:
· Get inside, if possible – Find some type of structure to shelter in or stay in your car until the storm passes. You can calculate how close the lightning is by counting the time in seconds between the lightning flash and the sound of thunder. Sound travels about one mile in distance in five seconds.
· If you can’t get inside, find a favorable landscape – If you can get inside a cave or stone overhang, a valley or any low spot on the landscape, it will offer some protection. Do not touch trees, rocks or stone shelters.
· Stay low – If left out in the open, avoid being the highest point on the landscape. Get into a low crouch, hugging your body to your knees. Do not lie flat on the ground, which puts your heart and vital organs in contact with the ground, through which lighting can travel.
· If you are on the water, get to land immediately. If you cannot reach land in time, move to the center of the boat or go below.
If Someone Is Struck By Lightning
If you are in the area where a person has been struck by lightning, follow these recommendations:
· Call 911 immediately
· Wait until it is safe to approach the injured person, or move the person to a safe area.
· Administer CPR while you wait for emergency personnel. Once the strike is over, there is no danger in touching an injured person.
· Treat the injured person for shock. Lay the person down with the head slightly lower than the torso and legs. Cover with a blanket, if available.
Your warm weather fun doesn’t have to be spoiled by lightning. Just follow these tips for a safe and happy outdoor activities.