We went to the beach yesterday to get the kids wiggles out. It’s a good thing we went in the morning because a few hours later, lifeguards closed the beaches for a very rare thunderstorm. To give you an idea how rare it is, I’ve been living in L.A. for over 30 years and I’ve only seen a handful lightning storms. According to the local news, there were more than a thousand lightning strikes alone yesterday. Insane, right?
Obviously, I know lightning can be deadly but after watching the news and doing some research, I learned just how dangerous it really can be … especially if you’re on a beach, in an open field, near a tree, in the water or even just doing the dishes during a thunderstorm.
Here’s what you need to know:
According to NOAA: “Lightning is a rapid discharge of electrical energy in the atmosphere. Each spark can span over five miles in length, reach temperatures hotter than the surface of the sun and contain 100 million volts of electricity.”
“Lightning doesn’t strike the ocean as much as land, but when it does, it spreads out over the water, which acts as a conductor. It can hit boats that are nearby, and electrocute fish that are near the surface. If you’re at the beach and hear thunder or see lightning, get out of the water. Get off the beach and take shelter in a building or in your car. If you’re at sea, head back to a shelter on land. If you can’t, either stay low in the boat or retreat to a cabin. Do not use electronic equipment during the storm.”
The CDC also has some great tips including this about what is considered a safe shelter during a lightning storm? “A safe shelter is a fully enclosed vehicle or a shelter that has four walls and a roof. Examples of safe shelters include homes, offices, shopping centers, and hard-top vehicles with windows rolled up. Open vehicles (such as convertibles, golf-carts, and motorcycles) and open structures (such as porches, gazebos, baseball dugouts, and sports arenas) are NOT safe during a lightning storm.”
Although it is very rare to get struck by lightning, it does happen. In fact, it’s happened to one of my writers. According to the NWS Storm Data, “over the last 30 years (1989-2018) the U.S. has averaged 43 reported lightning fatalities per year. Only about 10% of people who are struck by lightning are killed, leaving 90% with various degrees of disability. More recently, in the last 10 years (2009-2018), the U.S. has averaged 27 lightning fatalities.”
Business Insider did a helpful two-minute PSA (see below) and they say that 50% of lightning strikes happen after a storm has passed so they suggest everyone wait until 30 minutes after you’ve heard the last thunder to resume your activities.
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