Lightning facts and safety tips

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by Arizona State University

azfamily.com

Posted on September 20, 2009 at 4:56 PM

Updated Tuesday, Sep 29 at 9:13 AM

Lightning
Lightning strokes may involve electrical currents up to 100,000 amps and temperatures over 54,000°F. Lightning kills 100 or more people per year, almost more than any other weather event. Why don't we hear more about it? Simply because it usually kills people one at a time. Lightning is one of the most dangerous features of a thunderstorm.

Lightning safety
1. So what do you do? If caught in a level field or prairie far from shelter and if you feel your hair stand on end, lightning may be about to strike you. Drop to your knees and bend forward, putting your hands on the ground. DO NOT lie flat on the ground

2. The largest single location of lightning fatalities is in the vicinity of relatively isolated trees (or in Arizona, also cacti) such as on a golf course. Because the electrical charges tend to concentrate in upward projecting objects, standing underneath an isolated tree or telephone pole is NOT safe.

3. Avoid projecting above the surrounding landscape. For example, don't stand on a hilltop.

4. In a forest, seek shelter in a low area under a thick growth of small trees.

5. In open areas, go to a low place, such as a ravine, arroyo or valley. However, remember that the conditions which produce lightning may also produce a flash flood, in which case, a ravine, valley or arroyo is not the place to be.

6. Get off or away from open water -- such as canals -- tractors or other metal farm equipment or small metal vehicles, such as motorcycles, bicycles or golf cars.

7. When lightning is occurring, get inside a house, a large building, or an all-metal (not convertible) automobile. Do not use the telephone except for emergencies.

8. Put down metal equipment (particularly golf clubs, etc.).

9. Stay away from wire fences, clotheslines, metal pipes and rails.

10. If you are in a group in the open, spread out, keeping people several yards apart.

Remember - lightning may strike some miles from the parent cloud. Precautions should be taken even if the thunderstorm is some distance away. In fact, the positive bolts are typically from an anvil and can be ferocious!

First aid for lightning
Persons struck by lightning receive a severe electrical shock and may be burned, but they carry no electrical charge and can be handled safely. Someone who appears to have been killed by lightning often can be revived by prompt action.

The American Red Cross says that if a victim is not breathing, you should immediately begin mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, once every 5 seconds to adults and once every 3 seconds to infants and small children, until medical help arrives.

If both pulse and breathing are absent, CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) is necessary. CPR should only be administrated by properly trained individuals.

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