These safety precautions worth heeding

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 10, 2002

Lighting season has struck in Alabama, and with the tragic death of a Pike County man on Monday, the tragedy came home.

Some weather experts say that we have long underestimated the dangers of lightning, and perhaps so. As South Alabama records its fifth death caused by lighting in less than a month, perhaps it’s time to heed the advice offered by the Pike County Emergency Management Agency on

lighting safety:

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· No place is absolutely safe from the lightning threat, however, some places are safer than others. Large enclosed structures (substantially constructed buildings) tend to be much safer than smaller or open structures

· In general, fully enclosed vehicles with the windows rolled up provide good shelter. However, avoid contact with metal or conducting surfaces outside or inside the vehicle.

· Avoid being in or near high places and open fields, isolated trees, unprotected gazebos, rain or picnic shelters, baseball dugouts, communication towers, flagpoles. light poles, bleachers (metal or wood), metal fences, convertibles, golf carts and water (oceans, lakes, swimming pools, rivers). If caught on the water in a boat get to the shore immediately. If you cannot make it to shore,

lie flat in the boat to avoid being the highest point in the water. If caught in the woods, squat under a clump of trees, not near an isolated tree.

· When inside a building avoid the use of the telephone, taking a shower, washing your hands, doing dishes or any contact with conductive surfaces with exposure to the outside, such as metal door or window frames, electrical wiring, telephone wiring, cable TV wiring and plumbing.

· Generally speaking, if an individual can see lightning and/or hear thunder, he/she is at risk. Louder or more frequent thunder indicates that lightning activity is approaching, increasing the risk for lightning injury or death. If the time delay between seeing the flash and hearing the bang is less than 30 seconds, seek a safer location. However, this method of ranging has severe limitations in part due to the difficulty of associating the proper thunder to the corresponding flash.

· High winds, rainfall and cloud cover often act as precursors to actual cloud-to-ground strikes notifying individuals to take action. Many lightning casualties occur in the beginning, as the storm approaches, because people ignore these precursors. Also, many lightning casualties occur after the perceived threat has passed. Generally, the lightning threat diminishes with time after the last sound of thunder, but may persist from more than 30 minutes. When thunderstorms are in the area but not overhead, the lightning threat can exist when it’s sunny, not raining or when the clear sky is blue.

It’s advice worth heeding.


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