Lightning is Frightening!

So did you know this week is National Lightening Safety Week?

It comes complete with a nifty slogan: "When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors!"

(And if that's the one they chose, you kinda wonder how bad the rejected ones were? "When Thunderclouds Threaten, It's Time to Start Frettin'!" Or: "When You Hear Thunder Boom, Don't Leave Your Room!" Or perhaps: "If You See Lightning Strike, Cancel The F@cking Hike!" )

Not only does Lightning Safety have a slogan, it even has it's own "quirky" mascot: "Leon the Lightning Lion!"

Parental Warning:
If Your Kid's Soccer Coach Looks Anything Like This?
Find Another Team. Lightning is The Least of Your Worries.

Actually, it seems the folks at the National Weather Service may have some ambivalent feelings themselves about skeezy ol' Leon. Check out the "kids game" over at the NWS lightning site: it's a little quiz, and if you guess wrong about an unsafe situation, poor Leon gets zapped by lightning and electrocuted before your very eyes!

Seriously. This is one creepy public safety campaign.

Anyway, as a San Francisco Bay Area transplant now spending summers on the East Coast, (and as a congenital worrywart), I do not need a lot of help in being scared of lightning. I'm already quite good at it.

On the west coast, lightning wasn't all that frequent. And when we did get some, it usually occurred in the middle of a winter rainstorm when I didn't want to go outside anyway. So it somehow seems weird and unfair that a perfectly warm summer day can entice you out to the beach or tempt you into a long hike, and then... Dark Clouds? Rain? Thunder? Lightning? Untimely death? WTF?

So I'm one of those people who will try to remember to check the radar before I go for long outdoor excursions, but even with some level of paranoia about it, I've still been caught outside in thunderstorms.

Was I really in any danger? What should I do if I'm outside and hear thunder? And am I safe if I'm hanging out indoors?

Well, the National Weather Service has put together some lightning safety information to answer some of my questions, but they left me feeling more paranoid than ever. (They also have a video that they advertise with inappropriately enthusiastic teaser "New 30 second video of teen struck by lightning!" Note: no teen is actually struck by lighting during the video, but it's actually pretty darn poignant. Here's the Youtube link.)

But anyway, on to the informational portion of this post. There's much more over at the NSA website.

Watch for Developing Thunderstorms. Towering cumulus clouds are often the first sign that you're going to die a thunderstorm may be developing.

It Doesn't Have to be Raining for You To Get Hit. Lightning can strike as far as 10 miles away from where rain is falling. Coincidentally, this about how far away you can hear thunder, which means...

If You Can Hear Thunder, You're Within Striking Distance. This totally freaks me out. If you're outside and you hear thunder, lightning can get you. Yikes!

Safe Places Are Really Hard To Find Outdoors. In the "Electrocute Leon the Lion Game," there are a bunch of examples of places you might try to seek shelter, but you (and Leon) are doomed because unless they are a large building or an enclosed vehicle you are screwed.

So all us hikey-bikey people who do not always travel everywhere in cars and could find ourselves a long way from shelter during a thunderstorm? People like us need to pay special attention to the weather!

You Can Be Zapped Indoors Too: "Stay off corded phones, computers and other electrical equipment that put you in direct contact with electricity. Stay away from pools (indoor or outdoor), tubs, showers and other plumbing."

I always wondered about this. So you could be minding your own business taking a bath and a thunderstorm comes along and... Eeek! You should also buy surge suppressors for key equipment and install ground fault protectors on circuits near water or outdoors. And "wait 30 minutes after the last clap of thunder, before going outside again." (And, um, how do you know it's the 'last clap?"

Don't Be Afraid to Help a Lightning Strike Victim: They don't carry an electrical charge, are safe to touch, and need urgent medical attention. Call 9-1-1 immediately and perform CPR if appropriate.

And be careful out there!

--- Crabby

Anyone have any tips, fears, scary stories, or other thoughts about lightning?

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