I’d Rather Avoid a 50,000º Sunburn

I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to better respect lightning.

NING, not ING. I already have a healthy respect for lighting (as evidenced by our extensive collection of lava lamps and other sources of illumination, such as candles and flashlights and neon beer signs). It chases away the shadows and helps prevent me from stubbing my toe on sharp table corners cloaked in shadow.

Well, most of the time. I still managed to find the edge of a card table last night even with the lights on. Hurt like a mofo, too. But I digress…

I’m talking about lightning, as in, electrostatic discharges caused by imbalances between two electrically charged regions, such as clouds and the ground.

(And by the way, if I see one more person misspell it lightEning, I’m going to scream! But again, I digress.)

Y’all know I’m a weather geek. Thunderstorms fascinate me. Usually when they roll in, while other people seek shelter, I do the opposite. I step outside. To gawk and take pictures. And I know that’s not smart, but it hasn’t stopped me yet. I always figured the odds of being struck by lightning were pretty slim. But you know what? They’re not as slim as I thought: the average person has a 1 in 15,300 chance of being struck by lightning during their lifetime. And only about 10% who are struck by lightning actually die.

But it dawns on me that I am not an average person, considering I’m the guy heading outdoors at the first sign of thunder when everybody else is coming inside.

Two other sobering statistics:

  • South Dakota has the fifth-highest rate of lightning fatalities in the U.S.
  • Seventy percent of people who are struck by lighting suffer from debilitating health effects such as severe burns, memory loss, and brain damage.

And all along, I naively thought all you’d have to show for your close encounter with 100 million volts of electricity was a really good story to tell at cocktail parties.

Luckily, none of this was on my mind Monday morning, when I left the house before sunup for my morning walk. In my defense, I wasn’t expecting lightning. None was forecast. It wasn’t until I stepped outside and started walking that I was even aware of any thunderstorms in the vicinity. I was surprised to see quite a bit of lightning over the hills to the west. But no thunder, which meant I wasn’t in imminent danger. I checked my weather app and the radar showed the storms were a good distance away, though heading in my direction.

Maybe I can finish my walk before they get here, I said to myself.

I did not finish my walk before they got here.

But I’d chosen to stay in the neighborhood rather than head for one of the nearby parks I usually frequent. At the first rumble of thunder, I immediately turned around and headed home. I was maybe a quarter mile away, and the lightning began flashing almost directly overhead, so I practically sprinted the rest of the way. I’m very fortunate the positively charged particles along the ground didn’t travel up my body and attract the negatively charged particles at the bottom of the storm cloud.

Wow. I really am a weather geek.

Recounting this story to my coworkers later that morning, I learned that two of them personally knew people who had been struck and killed by lightning.

OK, fine. I’ll practice common sense from now on and enjoy lightning from inside the house. Any photos I take will be from a safe distance or through a window.

Now, let’s talk about venturing out in blizzards and nearly getting frostbite…



Categories: Photography, weather

Tags: , , , ,

32 replies

  1. I remember being at afternoon soccer practice in High School in Ohio. The clouds rolled in. The hair on our arms raised straight up with a potential, electrical charge…. We thought it was HILARIOUS! Luckily no one was struck by lightning…but seriously HOW STUPID WERE WE??? AND OUR STUPID COACHES!!???

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Okay, that is quite sobering that two coworkers knew people killed by lightning. That would make me be more cautious too.
    And you’re stubbing your toes on table corners? How high do you step, man? I assume you mean table legs, but still. Mini chuckle there.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. My husband and I run for the barn porch when a storm moves in and watch it roll through with an adult beverage or two. Sadly Maine doesn’t have many good boomers and I’ve yet to capture a good photo.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Frightening! Which does have an E! That’s crazy that two coworkers have known people who’ve died by being struck. While researching my family history, I came upon a gravestone of an ancestor that states he died from being struck by lightning on the actual tombstone.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Mrs. McWilliams and the Lightning
    by Mark Twain, short story lightening attractors are everywhere.

    Political Economy
    by Mark Twain, short story about Twain having to deal with a lightening rod salesman.

    Guarantee you will absolutely howl reading these.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I loved watching summer afternoon storms on the front porch in DC, but we don’t have many in Los Angeles. My child had never even heard thunder until a summer in New Hampshire, and then he got a front row seat to a massive storm (lightning hit the lightning rod on the house, even).

    His favorite part was collecting hailstones afterwards.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am SO glad we didn’t get any major hail this summer! I was dreading damage to my car. Plenty of places around the Black Hills were less fortunate, but personally, we were able to dodge anything serious this year. Hail is a big problem here, as you might have surmised.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I grew up in Los Angeles (I guess we have to spell it out so it doesn’t look like one of the many southern states I am so glad I wasn’t born in and even more glad to have recently escaped from) and I don’t recall experiencing thunderstorms during my childhood except in the mountains. That’s why I’ve been so surprised to see and hear some during my recent returns, up to and including my most recent and seemingly semi-permanent sojourn here in the land of my birth. What I’m saying is that I know I heard thunder, even if I didn’t look out the window, only a week or so ago during one of our rare rain events. I live near the beach and the recent times when I have experienced such storms they’ve happened near the beach. Considering this is where I’m from, it’s really freaking me out! Another fallout of climate change, maybe?

      Liked by 2 people

      • Pretty sure it’s climate change, bringing some of the more monsoonal Arizona weather our way!

        Yes, once you hear thunder, it’s hard to mistake.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Even here, something like five of our ten wettest years have occurred since 2000. The effects of climate change are far-reaching and not always obvious. Hope y’all (sorry if that reminds you of the state-that-shall-remain-nameless) get more frequent thunderstorms as a result. As long as they don’t spark any fires, of course…

        Like

  7. We know a guy who has been struck twice and lived to tell about it.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. The husband is like you. While everyone else is taking cover, he’s exiting the house for a better look. Those are some pretty pictures of lightning strikes. Love it that you are irked by the incorrect spelling of lightning. I get that way when people write “peaked” when they clearly mean “piqued.”

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Lightning is NO joke. I love the photos, but goodness it scares the BeJesus out of me.
    Our house has been hit a few times and once, while we were away, it blew a large hole in our roof THROUGH concrete tiles. Another time, on a clear day I saw it hit a tree in our front yard and catch on fire. Do I have a target on my head?

    My husband and I were discussing lightning statistics just a few weeks ago; did you know that more men are struck than women? I think we tend to heed the warning whereas men might not.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I’m a So Cal native, born and raised and recently returned. I have no problem in some circumstances, like snow and hail, with confessing I am therefore a weather wimp!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I used to get teased mercilessly whenever I’d talk about the inch or two of snow Portland got on occasion and how it would shut down the city. Now it’s second nature to me. Proof that even a weather wimp can adapt!

      Like

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