Monday, August 5, 2013

Lightning Survival

According to the National Weather Service, about 400 people in the U.S. are struck by lightning each year and an annual average of 73 die — nearly one out of five.

That’s more than the average weather-related death toll from hurricanes, tornadoes or blizzards — only floods rank higher than lightning strike, when it comes to deadly weather.
One of the things that can happen to a lightning strike victim is cardiopulmonary arrest. Basically, that's death.
To save a victim who has suffered lightning-induced cardiopulmonary arrest, administer CPR while waiting for the emergency medical team to arrive. In spite of best efforts, some victims remain in a coma and eventually die of secondary causes including hemorrhages and lesions to the brain, spinal cord, lungs, liver, intestines, etc.
Those who aren't outright by the lightning strike typically suffer debilitating injuries — severe burns, burst eardrums, blindness, paralysis, memory loss, sleep disorders, weakness, dizziness, numbness, seizures, chronic pain, and other disabilities.
Sometimes victims recover, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes they live the rest of their lives with permanent disabilities. Needless to say, lightning strike is extremely serious.
Due to predominant weather patterns, certain parts of the country are especially prone to lightning. The Southeast experiences more strikes than anywhere else in the U.S. Florida ranks number one, but there is plenty of risk elsewhere. In fact, there is no place in the world that is totally safe from lightning strike.
So, what can you do to be safe? If you hear thunder, lightning is within 6-8 miles so you are within the danger zone and should seek shelter immediately. Safe shelters include: metal vehicles with windows up, substantial buildings, or the low ground.
Avoid trees, water, open fields and high ground. Small shelters such as tents offer virtually no protection against lightning, especially if they are positioned on high ground or near a tree or a small group of trees that dominate the area.  If your only shelter is a tent, it should be located in a low area and away from tall trees.
If you feel your hair standing on end or hear crackling noises, you are in immediate danger. Waste no time in distancing yourself from metal objects (toss the golf club or fishing rod away from you), place your feet together, duck your head, and crouch as low as you can, with your hands on your knees. You're trying to make a small target that has only one "ground" point at your feet.
As a storm approaches, thunder will lag behind the flash of lightning by five seconds for each mile of distance.  For example, if you see lightning and the sound of thunder doesn’t reach you for ten seconds, the strike was about two miles away. The distance from one strike to the next can be six to eight miles, so you are in danger and need to take precautionary actions.
After lightning and thunder have departed, wait a minimum of 30 minutes before resuming activities. Don’t be fooled by sunshine or blue sky. A bolt, literally from the blue, can travel from a storm cell as much as 10 miles away.
The grim reality is that lightning is a capricious and deadly event that cannot be predicted with any degree of reliability. There is nothing you can do to prevent a strike. All you have in your favor is living by rules that offer the best chance for safety.

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