Lightning and High School Football: Staying Safe

(Photo courtesy Chandis Brasington Digby)

It was a scene that repeated itself last week across the area.  Thunderstorms with plenty of lighting causing delays and postponements to football games.

In a typical year, lightning is the second-leading cause of storm deaths in the U.S.  (Flash flooding is typically the leading cause of fatalities.)

Anyone outdoors needs to seek shelter as a storm approaches.

At Easley High School, it’s the job of head athletic trainer Jeff Harris to monitor conditions from the field.

He’s armed with his cellphone and a handheld lightning detector, and is in constant communication with the game officials to let them know what is going on.

The detector looks for electric pulses in the atmosphere that indicate cloud-to-ground lightning is nearby.  Detectors are highly accurate at finding lightning, but are not as accurate when calculating just how far away the lighting hit.  For that, he uses a lightning app on his phone to confirm how close the lightning really is.

“If they both go off then I know it’s a confirmed strike.  When you see a lighting strike come close and hear the bang right afterwards, you know that it was correct.”

The goal is to make sure everyone is off the field…before that lightning happens.

A goal shared by the people who monitor weather each week at stadiums across the area.

So when the sky turns gray, remember that the clouds may be holding more than just rain…there could be lightning.

Even without your own lighting detector, you can keep yourself safe with the “30/30 rule”.  Get indoors if you can hear thunder within 30 seconds of seeing lighting, then stay indoors for 30 minutes after you hear the last rumble of thunder.

For more on lightning and lightning safety, click here.

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