Monday, July 28, 2008

Thor’s Hammer

“Did you know that 5 people got struck by lightning today in New Jersey?” Mother Hen said to me last night as I was cooking dinner.

“…Really?” I said as I prepped the burgers for the grill. “That’s blog worthy.” I mean, lightning happens but to 5 people in one afternoon? That’s pretty scary.

But such lightning activity is not uncommon. See: According to this article, “Nearly 2000 people per year in the world are injured by lightning strikes. In the USA between 9-10% of those struck die, amounting to an average of 75 fatalities annually. In the United States, it is the #2 weather killer (second only to floods), killing 100 annually and injuring ten times that number. The odds of an average person living in the USA being struck by lightning in a given year is 1:700,000. Roy Sullivan has the record for being the human who has been struck by lightning the most times. Working as a park ranger, Roy was struck seven times over the course of his 35 year career. He lost a nail on his big toe, and suffered multiple injuries to the rest of his body.”

Roy’s gotta be a little nervous when the clouds gather and the rain starts falling. I think after getting hit the first time I’d be looking for some other line of work. Definitely after getting hit a second time. Maybe something in a basement somewhere or perhaps something to do with a rubber insulated room. Come to think of it, certain parties have suggested over the years that a rubber room is just what I needed. But enough about me, this is about lightening.

Wikipedia, my favorite second brain explains the phenomenon here: - fascinating stuff. I didn’t know that there were so many types of lightning. There’s positive lightning, cloud-to-cloud, dry lightning, cloud-to-ground, bead lightning, ribbon lightning, staccato lightning, ground-to-cloud lightning, ball lightning, and then there’s upper-atmospheric lightning that includes things like sprites, blue jets and ELVES. Yes, Elves which stands for, Emissions of Light and Very Low Frequency Perturbations from Electromagnetic Pulse Sources. This is not to be confused with Gnome lightning which stands for Get the heck to shelter - No One is going to survive except ME because I’m in a shelter.

So what can you do to protect yourself? As per the above article, “The US National Lightning Safety Institute advises everyone to have a plan for their safety when a thunderstorm occurs and to commence it as soon as the first lightning or thunder is observed. This is important, since lightning can strike without rain actually falling. If thunder can be heard at all then there is a risk of lightning. The safest place is inside a building or a vehicle. Risk remains for up to 30 minutes after the last observed lightning or thunder. If a person is injured by lightning they do not carry an electrical charge and can be safely handled to apply First aid before emergency services arrive.” So there you have it. Get out of the water, get off the golf links, and if you can’t, get as low as possible to the ground as you can. Amongst the trees is not a good place to hide since lightning routinely discharges onto the tallest thing standing and tree shrapnel is not a good way to go.

Still, there is something hypnotic about a good storm; the raw energy surrounding you, the awesome power displayed before your eyes that reminds us that we are but a small part of a vast eco-system. I can see what the allure is to the “storm chasers”, those guys that drive towards big storms, tornados and hurricanes? They are not all crazy. There is something to that experience, something that connects them to a much larger world. That sort of thing could easily become addictive.

So when the clouds gather and the rain starts falling don’t fret, Gentle Reader, I’ve got plenty of space in my rubber room for all of us.

No comments: