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Lightning - myth and reality

by Commanders' Weather Corporation on 19 Jun 2011
Lightning - dreaded by all those who spend time on the water .. .
Lightning strikes fear into the heart of even the most experienced cruising sailor, fisher or boater, with much written about how to protect your boat and you when threatened. However, over the years myths have grown about lightning which have become wide-spread, and here Commanders' Weather Corporation dispels some of them:

Myth 1: Lightning does not strike the same spot twice:

It is a myth that lightning does not strike the same spot twice. In a typical lightning flash, several strokes may hit the same spot in rapid succession. Tall structures are vulnerable to being hit many times a year. This is the reason to avoid being near any tall structure during a thunderstorm.


Myth 2: There is no danger of being hit by lightning if it is not raining:

It is a myth that if it is not raining there is no danger of being struck by lightning. Lightning bolts can and often do strike as much as ten miles outside of the rain area of the main storm. Recent research on lightning deaths finds that most fatalities occur in the period when the storm appears to be ending.

During the height of most thunderstorms, people are inside seeking protection from the rain. For the ten or more minute period after the rain ends, and even after the sun comes out, lightning is still a threat. Lightning can be a threat as the storm approaches as well. The storm may be a good distance away and may have blue sky overhead. A lightning strike would still be possible.

Myth 3: If you touch a lightning victim, you’ll be electrocuted:

The truth is that the human body does not store electricity. Therefore, it is safe to touch a lightning victim and give them first aid.


Myth 4: If you are on shore and lightning is about to strike, lie flat on the ground:

The best thing to do in that scenario is to crouch down, ie, put your feet together, squat low, and tuck your head. Lightning induces electric currents along the top of the ground that can spread out and be deadly over 100 feet away. While lying flat does get you low, your chances of getting hit by ground currents are increased. You want to be as low as possible but also touch as little ground area as possible. Obviously, getting inside to proper shelter would be even
better.

Myth 5: On land, rubber tires protect you from lightning in a car:

This is also a myth. The metal roof and the metal sides protect you rather than the rubber tires.

If you are out on the water and you are lucky enough to have time and can come back to shelter, then do so! If not, then stay low in the boat. Boats with cabins offer a safer environment than those without. Do not use electronic equipment during the storm and stay away from metal objects. This includes staying off the radio unless there is an emergency. Disconnect electronics as much as is feasible.

Having a lightning protection system may help minimize damage to you and the boat. Remember, it will not prevent lightning strikes. Another preventative measure is installing a static dissipator. These devices help reduce the magnetic field strength on the boat, i.e., the device makes the potential of the boat similar to that of the surrounding water.

Lightning can be spectacular as well as quite dangerous. It is important to have access to weather information. Whether thru NOAA or private weather companies, having a forecast and getting updates on potential lightning situations can be critical.

About Commanders' Weather Corporation:
Commanders' Weather Corporation is an international marine weather forecasting service that provides specialized weather forecasts for sailors and boats across the globe. With over 6000 clients, Commanders' Weather Corporation is a leader in supplying individualized weather forecasts for all sail racing events as well as cruising and boat deliveries
anywhere in the world.

For more information go to www.commandersweather.com or email info@commandersweather.com
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