In a Weather-Ready Nation, Lightning Protection Reminders Help Sharpen our “Storm Smarts” during National Preparedness Month!

Youths from the “Thunder” and “Lightning” teams donned lightning.org visors for a recent parade during a Player Recognition Night. The community event, hosted by the Pine Grove Area Soccer Association drew a large crowd and helped educate players about lightning protection and lightning safety during National Preparedness Month.

The arrival of fall brings relief from scorching temperatures with a crisp chill in the air. It’s the perfect time to witness the brilliant canvas of color with changing autumn leaves, send kids back to school and get ready for football and soccer season. Unfortunately, fall often ushers in a changing of the guard in weather threats, too.  This is why National Preparedness Month (NPM) is the perfect time to sharpen our storm smarts and switch gears about weather safety.

The autumn months are typically prime time for severe weather threats like wind storms, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes and thunderstorms. Since tornadoes are spawned by thunderstorms, they are often accompanied by intense lightning that can strike before, during and after a tornado passes. While lightning is not a typical occurrence in hurricanes, thunderstorms have been known to occur in the areas of highest vertical convection within the hurricane eye wall. Temperature swings that create extreme differences between cold and warm air can create especially severe thunderstorms in the autumn months. In turn, these storms can pose significant problems for homeowners in terms of heavy winds, downed trees, frequent electrical surges and lightning fires.

Advances in weather technology at NOAA and the National Weather Service is seeing weather forecast offices testing a newly developed radar tool to provide enhanced warning of threatening weather. New technology called “Supplemental Adaptive Intra-volume Lowe-level Scan” or “SAILS” is being used to increase the detection of severe thunderstorms and providing forecasters with better and faster detection of dangerous weather. This means more advanced warnings for the public. See link here for more information about SAILS: http://www.nws.noaa.gov/com/weatherreadynation/news/151509_meso_sails.html#.VgBK6N9Vikp

While advancements in warning systems are certainly important, knowing what to do before the storm hits is often the most critical step you can take in protecting your family, property and community.

So when it comes to lightning, the best way to prepare your home or business is to have a lightning protection system professionally installed. A properly installed lightning protection system will dissipate the dangerous electrical charge, taking it safely to ground, keeping the home and its occupants unharmed. Property owners often remark that their home is already “grounded.” The implication being that there isn’t a need for a lightning protection system. What’s often misunderstood is that the electrical ground installed by the electrician is there to protect the internal workings of the electrical system of the building to accommodate everyday electrical usage. Many don’t realize the electrical ground is not designed to handle the mega electricity (100 million + volts of power or 200 kA of electrical energy), that a typical lightning strike packs.

And when mega electricity collides with your sensitive home amenities (like computers, security systems, invisible pet fences, sound systems and generators), you’re going to see damage, downtime and costly repairs.  An indirect or secondary lightning strike to a nearby tree or power line can also induce unwanted surges into a home, sparking problems to telephone or cable television lines.  Worst of all, a direct lightning strike can generate heat in excess of 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit, which can rip through roofs, explode brick and concrete, and ignite fires.

Former football coaching legend, Lou Holtz learned first-hand about lightning’s power, when lightning sparked a two-alarm fire that destroyed his 11,000-square-foot home last June:  http://www.nola.com/lsu/index.ssf/2015/06/lou_holtz_and_his_wife_escape.html  The home was a total loss, but thankfully, Lou and his wife were able to escape to safety despite being surrounded by enveloping smoke.

Preparation in all areas of life is always important. It’s not a surprise that Benjamin Franklin, the inventor of lightning protection, was known for saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Just as students are headed back to school and coaches are preparing teams to meet their rivals on the fields, National Preparedness Month is a good time to examine our storm smarts to best prepare our families, homes and properties for severe weather threats. So, let’s not let our guard down against lightning. The weather hazard experienced by most people most of the time, certainly commands our respect and attention now, and all year long!

Information about the Weather-Ready Nation campaign is available at: http://www.nws.noaa.gov/com/weatherreadynation/force.html