Dodging The Bolt From The Blue

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(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

Dr. Dave Hnida By Dr. Dave Hnida
CBSDenver.com Blogger
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You’d think a millisecond spent on the 10,000 degree surface of the sun would be enough to give you an eternal hot foot. So why would you risk coming in contact with something that’s 50,000 degrees— which happens to be the searing temperature of a bolt of lightning?

Too many Coloradans take that risk. We rank in the Top 3 states nationwide for lightning deaths over the past 10 years.

The most likely reason: we just don’t think we’ll ever get nailed by a bolt. After all, the lifetime odds of being struck by lightning are 1 in 10,000. Yet enough people win the lightning lotto each year to wind up in the hospital … or the cemetery.

Basically lightning just doesn’t get the respect it should.

Here are a few things to think about the next time the sky starts rumbling:

The one-one thousand, two-one thousand rule may help calculate distance, but it doesn’t mean anything from a safety standpoint. If a storm is coming, no amount of counting in the world offers absolute safety. That’s because lightning can travel up to 10, even 15 miles ahead of a storm.

So just because a storm isn’t exactly in your neighborhood doesn’t mean it can’t hunt you out. Experts say as soon as you see or flash or hear thunder, it’s time to seek shelter.

What kind of shelter? A big, sturdy building for starters. No building? Don’t rely on those flimsy bus or gold course shelters. They will keep you dry, but are not lightning-proof.

Once inside — be smart. Using a cordless phone indoors during a storm generally isn’t a big risk. But a corded phone, using a computer, taking a shower, standing by a window, etc. — all bad ideas. Five percent of lightning deaths each year happen to people inside a home.

A car will protect you … somewhat. But it’s not the tires. Seriously. Do you believe 2 inches of rubber will protect you from a gazillion volts of electricity? If your car gets hit, the metal and framework will dissipate the electricity into the ground. BTW, that also means don’t learn on the door or put your face next to a window while waiting out a storm.

A tree remains a horrible idea. So can the ground. Meaning, if stuck in the open, don’t flop down and spread out. Lying flat on the ground actually increases your risk for getting shocked by a ground conduction strike yards away.

Instead, go into a crouch to lessen body size. Squat, tuck, and tilt your head forward. In other words, make yourself small.

Don’t waste time taking off a watch or any other metal attached to your body. Lightning is not attracted to metal — instead the big three lightning magnets are:

1. Height
2. Isolation
3. Pointy shape

In other words, it’s not holding a metal golf club out on the links that will nail you, it’s swinging one into the air (height), or you just being one of the tallest objects out on a wide-open space golf course as you stroll along thinking that storm is still too far away to zap you.

Finally, if you are around a person who gets struck — they are not electrified. Meaning, they are safe to touch … and be given first aid. Hopefully you will never have to help — or have someone help you.

LIGHTNING = RESPECT

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