EMA officials warn about lightning

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Local emergency officials are warning residents recent afternoon thunderstorms can bring one of weather’s most dangerous elements – lightning.

From 1995 to 2009, approximately 129 injuries and 23 deaths have been attributed to lightning, according to statistics from the National Weather Service.

Last July, lightning struck the 9-11 Center on Watson Street, damaging telephones, radios and parts of the computer system.

“Saturday was a great example of how a storm and lightning can come up suddenly,” said Susan Carpenter, county emergency management agency director. “It happens so quickly.”

Carpenter said no damage due to lightning was reported; however, E-911 reports show several power outages after the recent weather.

“The thing about lightning is that you don’t have to see it to be affected by it, meaning lightning can still strike if the storm is not right on you,” she said. “It’s been said that lightning can travel up to 10 miles from the parent thunderstorm to strike.”

The typical strike point is generally the tallest object in any given area, she said.

“So when weather strikes, seek shelter immediately,” she said.

Carpenter said there is one myth about those suffering from a lightning strike.

“It’s been widely thought that once a person is struck by lightning, the electrical charge is still running inside them and would shock anyone performing CPR,” she said.

“That’s not true. If you see someone struck by lightning, pull them to safety and begin CPR immediately.”

Today, there is a 50 percent chance of afternoon thunderstorms, and with those an increased chance of lightning.

“So, always exercise caution,” Carpenter said. “Anyone out in the open is particularly vulnerable to lighting.”