Summer thunderstorm season is upon us and with those thunderstorms comes lightning. That’s why you need to know where to be – and where not to be – when you see those dark clouds or hear the rumble of thunder on the way.
Here are some of the worst places to be during a thunderstorm:
- Near a tree. When you’re caught outside during a thunderstorm, it’s tempting to hide under the first big thing you see. We feel safer when we’re not exposed (and being pelted with rain). But taking shelter near a tall, isolated tree is a terrible idea. The lightning can strike the tree and jump to you (a side flash). Plus, you run the serious risk of getting hit by a falling limb once a bolt has made contact.
- On a golf course. The beauty of a golf course is in its wide, open spaces. Unfortunately for golfers, lightning is just as enthusiastic about a golf course’s charms. An empty field except for a few people with raised metal clubs? If you are on the links when you hear the first rumbles of thunder, head indoors ASAP. The shelter on the golf courses are meant for protection from rain and sun, not lightning, and they aren’t a safe place to wait out a storm.
- On a small boat. When you see dark towering clouds topped with an anvil shape, get off the water – and fast! Not all boats are created equal, Sailboats are possibly the worst kind of vessel to be aboard in a thunderstorm – there’s a tall mast and no cabin. Metal ships can dissipate the electric charge of a lightning bolt fairly quickly. Wood and fiberglass boats need a lightning protection system (LPS). An LPS doesn’t keep a strike from happening, but it can protect the people in the vessel, as well as the boat’s instruments.
- In your yard. Being at home is not the same as being in your home, as far as lightning safety goes. People are stuck by lightning and killed each year in their own yards. Even in your home, you’re not entirely safe. Experts recommend staying out of the bath and shower and not using your land-line phone or any electrical appliances. Electricity can travel through your land-line, plumbing or any wires and shock you.
- In an open field. Baling hay. Feeding livestock. Herding cattle. These are just some of the activities people were engaged in when struck by lightning and killed last year. All of these fatalities occurred in open fields. Some people were doing farm work; others were engaging in leisure activities. Lightning deaths on soccer fields are, unfortunately, not uncommon in this category.
Really there is only one safety rule – when thunder roars, go indoors. Homes and buildings that have plumbing and wiring are very safe, because the lightning current will tend to travel through those conduits.