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Lightning: The Underrated Threat

Every year we hear about local tragedies:  home hit by lightning causing a blazing inferno, person struck in boat or on a field and killed, house fire starts from an appliance, or the ever annoying… power outages across the Tri-State.  But what can we do to minimize or in many cases prevent these threats that can surface at the blink of an eye without warning.  How can we deal with them as they occur? Who can help when they occur.

Since officials have started keeping records on the matter, nearly 550 people in Ohio have been killed or injured by lightning strikes. Ohio alone ranks among the top four states in the country while Kentucky is ranked 20th and Indiana 21st.

Many times we push ourselves and our kids to commit to schedules and worry more about if the fields are too wet or rescheduling is too troubling. Most lightning strikes occur in recreational fields (not including golf), or under a tree or open areas such as people in small metal boats that don’t have the time to escape.  I admit coaching in the rain all the way up to seeing lightning and then standing in a small shelter soaking wet with the kids waiting for that “30 minute safety rule” to kick in – All because we had a big game coming up. Foolishly not knowing our lives were still in danger. There should be a warning sign posted in shelters about lightning. While the shelter is better than out in the open, next time I am running to the car where I can be more comfortable and safer.


WHERE TO GO:The safest location during a thunderstorm is inside a large enclosed structure with plumbing and electrical wiring. These include shopping centers, schools, office buildings, and private residences. If lightning strikes the building, the plumbing and wiring will conduct the electricity and eventually direct it into the ground.If no substantial buildings are available, then an enclosed metal vehicle such as an automobile, van, or school bus would be a suitable alternative. WHERE NOT TO GO:Not all types of buildings or vehicles are safe during thunderstorms. Buildings with exposed sides are NOT safe (even if they are “grounded”). These include beach shacks, metal sheds, picnic shelters/pavilions, carports, and baseball dugouts. Porches are dangerous as well.Convertible vehicles offer no safety from lightning, even if the top is up. Other vehicles which are NOT safe during thunderstorms are those with open cabs, such as golf carts, tractors, and construction equipment.

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