Portable Lightning Detector
It is really difficult to know exactly where to start when talking about lightning; there is sooo much known and written about it. For starters, a thunderstorm can be defined as any storm that contains lightning and thunder. And at any given moment, there are about 1800 thunderstorms of various intensities occurring around the earth – about 16 million per year! Of course thunderstorms are, in and of themselves, a significant natural hazard, with the capability of producing things like damaging hail, tornadoes, high winds, significant rainfall and lightning… sometimes all of these in a single storm. But I’ll concentrate only on lightning, for it will strike somewhere on the earth about a hundred times every second! Lightning researchers estimate that about 22 million lightning flashes strike the ground each year in the United States.
So, why be worried? Most people are at least somewhat concerned – if not downright terrified – just by the word tornado or hurricane, yet never bother to think twice about dashing from a protected building outside to their cars in the pouring rain during a thunderstorm. And how many people do you know that will remain on the lake until the last possible instant before making a mad dash back to camp when thunder and lightning are occurring all over the lake? (Isn’t fishing supposed to be excellent during a rainstorm?) Perhaps not enough fear exists in these people… who might be surprised to learn that, according to the National Weather Service Statistics, lightning kills more people each year than tornados and hurricanes combined! Worse, injuries caused by lightning can be extremely painful and debilitating, mostly because of the damage done to the brain and nervous system.
first recollection of being on the water just prior to a storm was back
in 1981. The day was one of those high humidity, very hot (about 900
or so) and still days typically leading to major storms. We were casting
on the back side of an island when I was told that my hair – much longer
back then – was standing straight out. I had no idea as to what was
going on, but as we rounded the island, I noticed a gigantic anvil head
cloud building to the west. It seemed far enough away, but I was taking
no chances and headed back to the resort, arriving just prior to an
incredibly violent storm with lots of lightning.
The fact that lightning is
nothing more than a giant electrical spark should not be taken lightly.
That spark can almost instantly heat the surrounding air to a temperature
of 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit – hotter than the surface of the sun. The
resulting thunder is from that same air expanding at an incredible rate
and quite literally being ripped apart. The electricity generated can
be one Billion volts – enough to light a 100-watt light bulb for three
months… only problem is – the electricity is delivered all at once.
In the unfortunate event that you
are “stuck” out on the lake and can perhaps only get to an island, the
most important advice is to definitely avoid being the
tallest object anywhere—or taking shelter near or under the highest
object, including tall trees. And a small shelter like an old shed will
provide no protection from lightning. As a last resort only -
get away from others and use the lightning crouch: put your feet close
together, squat down low, tuck your head, and cover your ears.
Your best bet is to simply head for home at the first sign of a storm.
We all at times take much for granted, but don’t let lightning safety
be one of them. We have all heard stories about people being struck
by lightning. The odds of your being struck in your lifetime are 1 in
3,000. Don’t roll the lightning dice; do whatever you can to keep from
becoming a part of that statistic.
See you On the Lake!
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