WFO Denver/Boulder

PUBLIC INFORMATION STATEMENT 
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE GRAND JUNCTION CO
600 AM MDT WED JUNE 21 2006

           ...OUTDOOR LIGHTNING SAFETY...

COLORADO LIGHTNING AND WILDFIRE PREPAREDNESS WEEK CONTINUES
THROUGH SATURDAY.  YESTERDAY WE DISCUSSED THE SCIENCE OF LIGHTNING. 
TODAY WE WILL COVER OUTDOOR LIGHTNING SAFETY.

OUTDOORS IS THE MOST DANGEROUS PLACE TO BE DURING A THUNDERSTORM. 
EACH YEAR...MANY PEOPLE IN THE UNITED STATES ARE STRUCK BY LIGHTNING
WHILE WORKING OUTSIDE...AT SPORTS EVENTS...ON THE BEACH...MOUNTAIN
CLIMBING...MOWING THE LAWN OR DURING OTHER OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES.  IN
2005…215 PEOPLE IN THE UNITED STATES WERE REPORTED LIGHTNING VICTIMS.
43 OF THOSE LIGHTNING STRIKE VICTIMS DIED AND MANY OTHERS WERE LEFT TO
COPE WITH PERMANENT DISABILITIES.  A SIGNIFICANT NUMBER OF THESE
TRAGEDIES CAN BE AVOIDED.  FINISHING THE GAME...GETTING A TAN...OR
COMPLETING YARD WORK ARE NOT WORTH THE RISK OF DEATH OR A CRIPPLING
INJURY.

IN 2005…AT LEAST 14 PEOPLE WERE STRUCK BY LIGHTNING IN
COLORADO...INCLUDING ONE FATALITY.  ALL OF THESE VICTIMS WERE OUTSIDE
WHEN THEY WERE STRUCK.
 
LIGHTNING OCCASIONALLY STRIKES AS FAR AS 10 MILES AWAY FROM ANY
RAINFALL...AND HAS BEEN DOCUMENTED TO STRIKE UP TO 20 MILES AWAY FROM
THE THUNDERSTORM WHICH GENERATED THE LIGHTNING.  MANY LIGHTNING
VICTIMS ARE STRUCK AHEAD OF THE STORM OR SHORTLY AFTER THE STORM HAS
PASSED.   

SUMMER IS THE MAIN LIGHTNING SEASON...THOUGH IT CAN STRIKE YEAR ROUND. 
SUMMER IS ALSO THE PEAK SEASON FOR OUTDOOR WORK AND
RECREATION…PUTTING THOSE INVOLVED IN POTENTIAL DANGER.  STAY TUNED TO
ALL HAZARDS NOAA WEATHER RADIO.  IF THUNDERSTORMS ARE IN THE
FORECAST...PLAN AN ALTERNATE ACTIVITY OR MAKE PLANS TO QUICKLY SEEK
SHELTER.

WATCH FOR DARKENING CLOUD BASES OR RAPIDLY GROWING CUMULUS CLOUDS
AND HEAD TO SAFETY BEFORE THAT FIRST LIGHTNING FLASH.  IF YOU CAN HEAR
THUNDER...THE STORM IS CLOSE ENOUGH THAT LIGHTNING COULD STRIKE YOUR
LOCATION AT ANY MOMENT...AND YOU SHOULD IMMEDIATELY SEEK
PROTECTION.

ONE RESPONSE FOR LIGHTNING PROTECTION IS TO EMPLOY THE 30-30 RULE.  IF
THE TIME BETWEEN THE LIGHTNING FLASH AND THUNDER IS LESS THAN 30
SECONDS...LIGHTNING EXPERTS SUGGEST HEADING TO SHELTER IMMEDIATELY. 
THEN WAIT 30 MINUTES AFTER THE LAST SOUND OF THUNDER IS HEARD BEFORE
RESUMING OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES.

IT IS VERY IMPORTANT THAT ALL SPORTS LEAGUES AND OTHER OUTDOOR
GROUPS HAVE A LIGHTNING RESPONSE PLAN THAT IS UNDERSTOOD AND
CONSISTENTLY APPLIED FOR THE SAFETY OF THE PARTICIPANTS. PART OF THE
PLAN WOULD INCLUDE A DESIGNATED WEATHER WATCHER AT EACH OUTDOOR
EVENT WITH THE AUTHORITY TO POSTPONE OR CANCEL THE EVENT DUE TO THE
THREAT OF LIGHTNING.
     
WHEN LIGHTNING THREATENS...

MOVE QUICKLY INTO AN ENCLOSED STURDY BUILDING.  IF NO ENCLOSED
BUILDING IS NEARBY…GET INSIDE A HARD-TOPPED METAL-FRAMED VEHICLE.
MAKE SURE ALL WINDOWS ARE CLOSED...SINCE LIGHTNING CAN PASS THROUGH
AN OPEN AIR SPACE. AVOID SHEDS...PICNIC SHELTERS…BASEBALL DUGOUTS...AND
BLEACHERS. ALSO AVOID CARPORTS AND COVERED PATIOS.  A CAVE CAN BE AN
OPTION WHEN NO OTHER SHELTERS EXIST...BUT MOVE AS FAR AWAY AS POSSIBLE
FROM THE CAVE ENTRANCE. 

DO NOT BE THE TALLEST OBJECT AROUND.  IN THE MOUNTAINS...DO NOT REMAIN
ABOVE TREE LINE IF LIGHTNING THREATENS.  NEVER SEEK SHELTER UNDER AN
ISOLATED TREE OR A SMALL GROUP OF TREES.  IF IN A HEAVILY FORESTED
AREA...SEEK SHELTER IN A LOW SPOT AND AWAY FROM THE TALLER TREES.

IF THERE IS NO SHELTER...SQUAT LOW TO THE GROUND...COVER YOUR EARS AND
PUT YOUR CHIN TO YOUR CHEST...MAKING YOURSELF THE SMALLEST TARGET
POSSIBLE WHILE MINIMIZING CONTACT WITH THE GROUND.

GET OFF BICYCLES AND MOTORCYCLES. AVOID METAL…SINCE METAL OBJECTS
ARE GOOD CONDUCTORS OF ELECTRICITY.  SO DON'T HOLD ON TO FISHING
RODS…GOLF CLUBS…TENNIS RACKETS OR METAL TOOLS DURING A
THUNDERSTORM.  DROP METAL FRAMED BACKPACKS.  STAY AWAY FROM
CLOTHES LINES…FENCES AND METAL SHEDS.

GET OUT OF THE WATER…SINCE WATER IS A GREAT CONDUCTOR OF ELECTRICITY.
STAY OFF THE BEACH AND OUT OF SMALL BOATS. IF CAUGHT IN A BOAT…CROUCH
DOWN IN THE CENTER OF THE BOAT AWAY FROM METAL HARDWARE.  LIGHTNING
CAN STRIKE WATER AND TRAVEL SOME DISTANCE BENEATH AND AWAY FROM ITS
POINT OF CONTACT.

DO NOT STAY HUDDLED IN A GROUP WHEN CAUGHT OUTDOORS WITH NO
SHELTER. A RECOMMENDATION BY THE NATIONAL LIGHTNING SAFETY INSTITUTE
IS TO SEPARATE AT LEAST 15 FEET AWAY FROM EACH OTHER WHEN LIGHTNING
THREATENS.

LIGHTNING INJURIES CAN LEAD TO PERMANENT DISABILITIES OR DEATH.  IF
SOMEONE IS STRUCK BY LIGHTNING ...CALL 9-1-1 OR YOUR LOCAL AMBULANCE
SERVICE. GIVE FIRST AID AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE.  IF THE VICTIM HAS STOPPED
BREATHING...BEGIN RESCUE BREATHING. IF THE HEART HAS STOPPED BEATING...A
TRAINED PERSON SHOULD GIVE CARDIOPULMONARY RESUSCITATION.  IF THE
PERSON HAS A PULSE AND IS BREATHING...ADDRESS ANY OTHER INJURIES. 
PEOPLE STRUCK BY LIGHTNING DO NOT CARRY AN ELECTRICAL CHARGE…AND
CAN BE EXAMINED WITHOUT RISK.

HERE IS THE LIGHTNING QUESTION OF THE DAY...
WHAT OUTDOOR LOCATIONS IN THE UNITED STATES HAVE THE GREATEST
NUMBER OF LIGHTNING STRIKE VICTIMS?

ANSWER...ACCORDING TO A NOAA STUDY DOCUMENTING IDENTIFIABLE
LOCATIONS FOR LIGHTNING STRIKE CASUALTIES...OPEN FIELDS...SUCH AS
BALLPARKS AND PLAYGROUNDS...HAD THE GREATEST NUMBER OF LIGHTNING
VICTIMS BETWEEN 1959 AND 1994.  THE NEXT MOST COMMON LOCATION FOR
LIGHTNING VICTIMS WAS UNDER TREES…FOLLOWED BY BODIES OF
WATER…INCLUDING LAKES AND SWIMMING POOLS.  GOLF COURSES WERE NEXT
AFTER BODIES OF WATER.

THE LIGHTNING TOPIC FOR TOMORROW WILL BE ON SAFE SHELTERS AND INDOOR
LIGHTNING SAFETY.


JIM PRINGLE
WARNING COORDINATION METEOROLOGIST
WFO GRAND JUNCTION CO

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