LIGHTNING SURVIVAL INFO By Cord Prettyman, MPT
Old timers say there are three seasons in Colorado – winter, still-winter and lightning season. Unfortunately, lightning season got off to a dramatic and tragic start one Sunday, when 37-year-old Laura Miller and her award-winning horse were struck dead on a community bridle trail in Sedalia.
According to a report in the Denver Post, Miller was riding with a 15-year-old girl when lightning struck a nearby tree at approximately 3:30 pm. The young girl was rushed to an area hospital with serious but not life-threatening injuries. Miller and the horse were pronounced dead at the scene.
Lightning is the number one life-threatening weather hazard in Colorado with the state ranked sixth in deaths due to lightning strikes. Since 1959, there has been an average of 3 fatalities and 15 injuries reported each year and the toll, most likely, is much higher as many lightning accidents go unreported.
Most lightning strikes occur either at the beginning or end of a storm with 70 percent of all injuries and fatalities occurring in the afternoon. Twenty percent of all lightning victims die from the strike, while 70 percent of survivors suffer serious long-term effects such as nervous system damage, visual impairment, hearing loss, first to third degree burns, as well as contusions, fractures and muscle and ligament tears.
The key to a lightning safety plan is knowing how far away the lightning is. The “Flash to Bang” method allows you to estimate that distance.
If you observe a flash, count the number of seconds until you hear thunder. Divide the number of seconds by 5 to get the distance in miles between you and the lightning. For instance, if you see lightning and it is 10 seconds before you hear thunder, then the lightning is approximately 2 miles away.
Experts recommend that you seek shelter if the time between the lightning flash and the thunder is 30 seconds or less. Do not resume outdoor activities until 30 minutes after the last audible thunder as there is a very dangerous cloud-to-ground lightning strike called a “Bolt from the Blue,” which typically comes out of the back side of a thunderstorm cloud and can travel as far as 25 miles before striking ground.
Statistics tell us that we are much less likely to become a lightning victim if we remain inside a substantial structure such as home or office building but even that is not a guarantee.
Lightning typically enters home and buildings by either a direct strike through wires and pipes that extend outside the structure, through the ground or through an open door or window. Once in a structure, lightning can travel through the electrical, phone or plumbing systems and through metal wires or bars in concrete walls or floorings.
Lightning safety experts recommend that during a lightning storm you should avoid contact with corded phones, electrical equipment and plumbing. Stay away from windows, doors and porches and avoid contact with water such as taking a shower or doing laundry.
For additional information, visit the National Weather Service’s lightning resource website at http://www.lightningsafety.noaa.gov/.
Cord Prettyman is a certified Master Personal Trainer and owner of Absolute Workout Fitness and Post-Re-hab Studio in Woodland Park. He can be reached at 687-7437, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org through his website at www.cordprettyman.com.