It's Lightning Safety Awareness Week

| 21 Feb 2012 | 10:47

    Having weathered an onslaught of severe storms since June 1, Sussex County residents may consider themselves electrical storm experts, but they would do well to heed the advice of the true experts. The National Weather Service of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has named this week n the last full week in June each year n Lightning Safety Awareness Week. According to the NWS, the July Fourth holiday is historically the most deadly, when it comes to lightning. Not that the lightning is more powerful or more likely to occur, but that more people are outdoors, enjoying traditional Independence Day activities that happen to take place in vulnerable locations. Ball games, picnics, and fireworks displays leave people exposed in open fields, often far from any reliable form of shelter. One of the nation's favorite Fourth destinations, the beach, is especially dangerous. Sailing and swimming are obviously unthinkable activities during an electrical storm, but many people simply emerge from the water to wait out the storm on the shore n another open and exposed area. Worse yet, they may huddle under a beach umbrella to avoid the harmless rain while failing to recognize the far greater risk of electrical conductivity. The best rule? Get inside n deep inside. Think SOLID, SECURE, and SEALED. Don't leave a window open, and don't stand near even a closed window n electricity will generally follow the easiest path, and a saltwater-filled human is a far better conductor than a glass window. In most instances, a truly enclosed structure will serve as a "Faraday cage." This physics term describes an object that is electrically secure because the current "washes" over and around the external surface only, leaving the interior n and any inhabitants therein n untouched and unharmed. Airplanes are sometimes hit by lightning, but their passengers are protected by this Faraday cage phenomenon. Keep in mind that although your actual chances of being struck dead-on by lightning are slim, the likelihood of being seriously injured by secondary conduits n current flowing through a phone line, electrical outlet, or plumbing fixture, for example n is considerably greater. Chances are you probably know someone who has a lightning tale to tell. How close was it? Remember also that those people who were struck and killed by lightning probably never thought it would happen to them, either.