Lightning actually kills more people every year, on average, than tornadoes in the United States and here in Kansas. It is the NUMBER TWO KILLER, behind flooding, in nature. We get thousands of thunderstorms in Kansas each year, and each one is a potential threat to life.
Sadly, most people who are killed by lightning put themselves in unnecessary danger. The top places for people to get killed by lightning are on ball fields, golf courses, boats, and tractors without cabs. Did you know that lightning can strike the ground 10-12 miles from the parent storm? This is called a “bolt from the blue” and can pose a serious threat. This is why we tell people to take shelter from the storm AS SOON AS YOU CAN HEAR THE THUNDER!
HOW TO BE SAFE
The good news about lightning is that it is very easy to protect yourself! The main rule is GET INSIDE! A house or an automobile provides excellent protection from the lightning as the electricity travels around the outside of the structure.
Once you are inside, however, there are a couple of things you will want to AVOID: talking on a corded telephone or touching electrical appliances that are plugged into the wall. Lightning can travel down the telephone and electricity lines and shock you if you are using one of these. Of course, a cordless phone will offer ample protection from electrical shock.
Another thing you will want to AVOID is taking a bath or shower or doing the dishes by hand. Lightning has been known to follow the metal pipes in the house and shock a person that is in contact with the water or the water fixtures.
Finally, if you are around a person that is struck by lightning, you will usually find that their heart has stopped beating due to the electrical shock. It is usually quite simple to revive them with standard CPR. Wouldn’t now be a good time to learn CPR if you are not already certified?
HOW KSN NEWS 3 HELPS YOU DURING A LIGHTNING STORM
The KSN PINPOINT WEATHER CENTER TEAM can use our lightning display on our newscasts when there are thunderstorms in the viewing area. We present this as a map of the state with EACH LIGHTNING BOLT plotted. The location of the lightning bolt is accurate to within 10 meters, and the bolt will appear on your TV screen before most of the people that saw the bolt even hear the thunder! This is due to an extensive lightning detection network that covers the entire country, and Kansas is especially well covered with double the sensors that you would find in other parts of the United States. In addition whenever a SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WARNING is issued by the NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE, in Wichita, Dodge City, Goodland, Topeka, Hastings, NE, we will let you know of the danger with the KSN StormWarn system. If the SEVERE THUNDERSTORM contains 70 mph or higher and/or baseball sized hail or larger, we consider it “particularly dangerous” and will BREAK INTO PROGRAMMING to let you know of the threat.
Photograph courtesy of Jon Davies.