Lightning kills, and the damage that survivors live with can be devastating. Lightning can change your life in a flash. Paralysis, hearing and vision loss, burns, numbness and memory loss are some of the long term injuries that can result from a strike. Often, the recovery is long and hard, and many never fully recover.

The majority of victims over the last 60 years have been struck by seeking shelter under tall trees. When lightning strikes a nearby tree, the amount of electricity traveling through it can kill a person standing under it. Other indirect strikes include those that travel through the telephone and those that “splash” or “ricochet” off metal bleachers, fences, light poles or goal posts. The first peal of thunder can happen as a player is being struck. Parents and coaches should stop games and seek sturdy shelter if there is a chance that lightning is in the area.

Organized outdoor activities, such as soccer and baseball games, present serious danger to children playing them. Coaches should get their players to safety at the first sight of danger. Dugouts are not safe from lightning. Campers and boaters are also at a high risk of lightning strikes. Metal tent poles, fishing rods and boat antenna can also attract a strike.

Lightning can strike before, during and after a storm. Whether the ground is wet or dry, the electricity in a strike can travel up to 15 miles in any direction. When you see dark skies, get inside a sturdy building and stay there for at least 30 minutes after the storm has stopped.

Before the Storm:

Check the weather forecast before going outdoors. Be aware of signs of an approaching or developing storm- distant lighting or thunder, darkening and towering clouds, or large rain drops before the first lightning strike. Make sure you have a NOAA Weather radio at your golf course, athletic field complex or any other outdoor venue. Also buy one for your home. Watch for environmental clues such as dark clouds and strong winds that may signal a severe thunderstorm. When you hear about a severe thunderstorm warning, take appropriate action.

When You Hear Thunder:

Immediately move inside a sturdy building. Avoid picnic or rain shelters . Once inside a building, close all windows and outside doors. Stay off the telephone and away from electrical outlets and metal pipes. If you cannot get to a building, seek shelter in a vehicle with a metal roof. Close all windows and doors and avoid touching any inside metal.

If You Are Caught Outdoors and Cannot Get to a Building:

Find a low spot away from trees, fences and poles.
If you are in the woods, take shelter under the shorter trees or low brush.
If you are on the water, move to land immediately and find a low spot.
If you feel your skin tingle or hair stand on end, squat low to the ground on the balls of your feet. Tuck your head down and place your hands over your ears. Make yourself the smallest, shortest possible target while minimizing your contact to the ground.

When To Resume Outdoor Activities:

Wait at least 30 minutes after the last sound of thunder to return to your activities.

Your local Emergency Manager can assist you with creating your disaster plan and answer your questions about disaster preparedness in your area. Feel free to contact the Nelson County Department of Emergency Services to assist with any questions you may have on disaster preparedness.

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