Severe Weather Preparedness Week: Lightning

WSAV NOW Weather

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — Thursday is day four of Georgia severe weather awareness week and we are focusing on general lightning safety and what to do when you are at outdoor events.

First…What is lightning?

Lightning is a bright flash or spark of electricity that moves in several different ways throughout the sky. Lightning can move between the clouds and ground, between different clouds, and within a cloud. Every thunderstorm produces lightning, even if you don’t see it.

Why Lightning becomes dangerous

People spend more time outdoors and at sporting events as warmer weather becomes more prevalent which is also when thunderstorm development is more likely. Having a lightning safety plan can save your life and others, especially at organized events.

Often times without proper knowledge and education, event organizers may make thunderstorm decisions based on prior experience and a desire for events to continue, such as sporting competitions. This certainly puts safety at risk by not following proper guidelines. The National Weather Service recommends that the following questions should be asked to make proper judgment of the weather situation

When should activities be stopped? 

When thunderstorms are in the area, the primary lightning threat area extends 6 to 10 miles away from the base of thunderstorms.  If you can see lightning in the area of your activity, you are at risk for getting struck. If you can hear thunder, the lightning is usually within 10 to 15 miles of your location. Keep an eye to the sky above you as well. Thunderstorms may develop right over your area. If the sky looks threatening or you see lightning and hear thunder, you should seek out a safe shelter.

Where is a safe place to take shelter? 

When there are thunderstorms bearing down on your location, there is no safe place for you to be outdoors. The National Weather Service says small outdoor buildings such as baseball dugouts, rain shelters, garden sheds, or pavilions are not safe place to go during thunderstorms.

The kind of shelter that is safe are well-built permeate structures that have electrical wiring and plumbing such as homes, schools, office buildings, and buildings such a churches. Those types of buildings offer the best protection from thunderstorms. While sheltering, avoid the use of electronic devices, wired telephones, and running water.

When can the activity start up again? 

After thunderstorms pass, you are still at risk from getting struck by lightning. It is recommended that you wait at least 30 minutes before resuming you activities and sporting games.

Who should be in charge of monitoring the weather and make decisions? 

A person at the event who is not responsible for any other function should be in charge of monitoring the weather. They should keep up to date with the forecast and current conditions. The weather monitor should know the guidelines and ensure that they are followed while keeping in mind how many people are at the event or activity to ensure a timely reaction with weather conditions deteriorate.

What is the response if someone is stricken by lightning?  

If a person is stricken by lightning, many times they can survive with a timely response for medical aid. First, call 911 and ask for EMTs. Second, administer CPR or use an electronic defibrillator to restart the heart. Lightning causes cardiac arrest due to the electric current disrupting the heart’s natural electric pulses that keep it in rhythm.

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