Lightning… time to get out of the water


Technically, summer is winding down soon. But with our climate, many of us could be swimming for weeks, if not months.

That’s why lightning safety is important to practice all year long.

Lightning & Thunder: “If you can see it, flee it; if you can hear it, clear it.”

In the United States, about 270 people are struck by lightning every year. About 1 in 10 of those die. In your lifetime, the odds of being struck by lightning are 1 in about 15,000.

So far in 2020, twelve people have been killed by lightning.

About two-thirds of fatalities happen to people enjoying outdoor activities and one-third of those are water related… including boating, swimming, or just hanging out at the beach.

For one man, he was only dangling his legs in the water while on a family vacation.

Michael John Haffenden, 49, died instantly in front of his wife and their three children. According to the police statement, the family had just heard thunder and were about to head inside to their vacation villa when the lightning struck.

Water often attracts lightning, and water conducts electricity. This is why you need to get out of the water when a storm hits.

So let’s first talk about how water conducts electricity. This means the water spreads out the impact of the lightning strike. This is a bad thing. It will charge the water so that everyone who is in the water is shocked… even if the pool is large.

If you are electrified in water, you can suffer electric shock and burns… even if the lightning doesn’t hit you directly. You could die from indirect lightning strikes in pool, just like Mr. Haffenden.

So if you hear thunder or see lightning, get out of the water fast. Then seek shelter. Just make sure this shelter is surrounded by walls… not a porch or picnic-type shelter. Or you can always get in a car for safety.

Now let’s talk about seeing lightning… during the day, lightning is visible within 25 miles. At night, you could see lightning as far as 100 miles away.

If you hear thunder, it usually means lightning is less than 25 miles away from you. But sometimes if you are at a pool, it can be loud or music is playing. This is why modern technology is so extremely helpful these days. WSAV has a free weather app. If you turn on the correct notifications in the settings, you can get an alert when lightning is detected within 5 miles of your location. This is such an easy way to stay informed.

1. Designate a responsible person as the weather safety lookout. Keep an eye to the school and an eye on the weather app or weather radio.

2. When thunder or lightning is first noticed, get out of the water and go indoors.

3. Don’t go back outside or in the pool until at least 30 minutes after the last thunder is heard.

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