While on Twitter this morning I saw a blurb from Vermont Public Radio saying a teenager had died after being struck by lightning earlier in the past week. It's very sad to hear about any weather-related death in my field. As a meteorologist I'm always doing the best I can to alert others about floods, lightning, winds, extreme heat, etc. that could harm people.
According to the Valley News, 16-year-old Connor Cook was working in a field last Saturday. The farm radioed for the workers to come inside after thunder was heard in the distance but Cook never made it to shelter before being struck.
This event happens as the National Weather Service is promoting its Lightning Awareness Week. The week has run from Monday to Friday, the 25th of June to the 29th. It's the last day of the awareness week as I write this, Myths versus Facts.
Here's the statement from the National Weather Service in Burlington, VT:
Myth: Lightning never strikes the same place twice.
Fact: Lightning often strikes the same place repeatedly, especially if it's a tall, pointy, isolated object. The Empire State Building is hit nearly 100 times a year.
Myth: If it's not raining or there aren't clouds overhead, you're safe from lightning.
Fact: Lightning often strikes more than three miles from the center of the thunderstorm, far outside the rain or thunderstorm cloud. "Bolts from the blue" can strike 10-15 miles from the thunderstorm.
Myth: Rubber tires on a car protect you from lightning by insulating you from the ground.
Fact: Most cars are safe from lightning, but it is the metal roof and metal sides that protect you, NOT the rubber tires. Remember, convertibles, motorcycles, bicycles, open-shelled outdoor recreational vehicles and cars with fiberglass shells offer no protection from lightning. When lightning strikes a vehicle, it goes through the metal frame into the ground. Don't lean on doors during a thunderstorm.
Myth: A lightning victim is electrified. If you touch them, you'll be electrocuted.
Fact: The human body does not store electricity. It is perfectly safe to touch a lightning victim to give them first aid. This is the most chilling of lightning Myths. Imagine if someone died because people were afraid to give CPR!
Myth: If outside in a thunderstorm, you should seek shelter under a tree to stay dry.
Fact: Being underneath a tree is the second leading cause of lightning casualties. Better to get wet than fried!
Myth: If you are in a house, you are 100% safe from lightning.
Fact: A house is a safe place to be during a thunderstorm as long as you avoid anything that conducts electricity. This means staying off corded phones, electrical appliances, wires, TV cables, computers, plumbing, metal doors and windows. Windows are hazardous for two reasons: wind generated during a thunderstorm can blow objects into the window, breaking it and causing glass to shatter and second, in older homes, in rare instances, lightning can come in cracks in the sides of windows.
Myth: If thunderstorms threaten while you are outside playing a game, it is okay to finish it before seeking shelter.
Fact: Many lightning casualties occur because people do not seek shelter soon enough. No game is worth death or life-long injuries. Seek proper shelter immediately if you hear thunder. Adults are responsible for the safety of children.
Myth: Structures with metal, or metal on the body (jewelry, cell phones,Mp3 players, watches, etc), attract lightning.
Fact: Height, pointy shape, and isolation are the dominant factors controlling where a lightning bolt will strike. The presence of metal makes absolutely no difference on where lightning strikes. Mountains are made of stone but get struck by lightning many times a year. When lightning threatens, take proper protective action immediately by seeking a safe shelter don't waste time removing metal. While metal does not attract lightning, it does conduct it so stay away from metal fences, railing, bleachers, etc.
Myth: If trapped outside and lightning is about to strike, I should lie flat on the ground.
Fact: Lying flat increases your chance of being affected by potentially deadly ground current. If you are caught outside in a thunderstorm, you keep moving toward a safe shelter.
This is a picture from earlier in the week at Fenway Park, where lightning struck very close to the stadium behind the Green Monster. You realize the power of weather when you get in severe scenarios like lightning, wind, rain, and big storms.
The National Weather Service in Burlington has a great homepage set up on their web site for the lightning awareness campaign. That can be found here.
Quick stats with regards to lightning:
Overall take heed and respect the weather. It is definitely more powerful than you think. I was golfing this past week and was pleased to see not one, but two stickers on the cart that had lightning displays. The stickers explained what to do in the case of being caught in a lightning storm. I was so happy to see this! Any word we can get out there of safety precautions in weather situations is priceless. Thus it's why the National Weather Service conducts these awareness weeks. Stay safe this summer!
-Meteorologist Steve Glazier