Sunday, July 3, 2011

Clouds and lightning

A quick note on lightning safety.  There's only two places that are safe to be during a lightning storm, your car (with your limbs inside), or in a building with plumbing.  That means that tents, pavilions, fields, biking, boating, golfing, swimming, hiking, and especially under a tree are places that you will be in BIG trouble, should lightning strike.  You'd be surprised how many golfers have been killed by lightning.  It can be awkward to stop a social event to go sit in your car while the storm goes over, but it is the right thing to do.  Several people die each year due to lightning strikes.  It's not rare, like most people make it out to be! 

Should you be around when someone is struck by lightning, it's perfectly safe to touch them immediately afterwards.  Feel for a pulse.  If there is none, start CPR right away while you instruct others to call 911 and direct the ambulance to the victim.  If you don't know CPR, all you have to do is sing to yourself the Beegees' "Staying Alive" and push on the person's breast plate for each beat until help comes.

A sign that you are about to be struck by lightning is that your hair starts to stand up, or you hear clicking noises due to a static build up.  If you get this sensation, you need to stop, squat, put your hands on your head and your elbows on your knees, and maintain this position, putting your weight on your toes. After this sensation goes away (maybe lightning will strike the tree nearest you, dissipating the voltage/potential/buildup), run for cover inside the nearest car or building.  This position is your best option if you are stuck outdoors with no cover nearby.  Stay decently far from trees, and take on this squatting position until the storm goes over.  There is a picture out there of people who thought it would be cool to photograph their hair standing on end.  One of them is dead and the other paralyzed from being struck.  Don't be silly!  Stay safe!
Thunderstorm season has finally come to Boulder and I've gotten a few pics of fun clouds this past week.  Yesterday, Dave and I were outside and I heard some rumbling.  I looked up and saw these lovely mammatus clouds below.  I was super giddy and ran for the camera before they disappeared.  The other night I heard some noise coming from outside, turned off the fans so I could hear better, then ran out and realized it was hailing.  It didn't do any damage because the hail was so small, but I was able to pull a few tomato plants under the overhang just in case.  The lightning show was quite enjoyable.  We just don't get that here enough.  I remember spending a lot of time in my parents' living room with views in three directions, and enjoying lightning shows all spring and summer long.  Here it happens a only a handful of times each year.
Mammatus Clouds, which form on the underside of the cumulonimbus anvil. 

This cumulus cloud will soon be a cumulonimbus cloud, but the reason for photographing it is the pileus cloud capping it.  See the sort of thin, whispy thing almost near the tip top of the storm? 

Have a safe and happy 4th of July!  Remember, no fireworks in Boulder due to fire danger!  We can still enjoy the big shows, though!


A. Ortega said...

Thanks for the advice! I had no idea about this position ... why does it work? or what's the philosophy behind it?

YellowBunnies said...

It's the boyscout way, apparently. The hope is that the electric current would take a path through your hands, elbows, knees, and go out the ground through your toes. This way it would avoid your core (heart, brain). I haven't read any proof that this helps, but it sounds good in theory, right?