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Tag Archive | "lightning"

How a single lightning strike can claim many lives

From AccuWeather

AccuWeather reports a lightning strike killed at least 16 people and injured approximately 140 others in Rwanda on Saturday, March 10. The bolt struck the Seventh Day Adventist church in the country’s south, said a provincial governor.

Cases in which lightning causes multiple fatalities can occur when lightning either strikes the ground or an object on the ground, such as a tree. The energy from that lightning strike radiates outward along the ground.

Therefore, anyone in the immediate vicinity of that lightning strike may be killed or injured by the lightning, according to National Weather Service (NWS) Lightning Safety Specialist John Jensenius.

“It’s not all that frequent in the United States. However, in Africa, it’s actually quite common because many areas don’t have adequate protection,” Jensenius said.

Lightning strikes are frequent across Rwanda. The country’s police record a number of human and livestock deaths each year.

The number of fatalities in the recent Rwanda incident was unusual but not unprecedented, according to Jensenius.

In June 2011, a lightning strike killed 19 children at a school in Uganda, according to Mail & Guardian.

“Children were on a dirt floor and the lightning spread across the floor. It killed a number of children and also the teacher,” Jensenius said.

In the U.S., events of this nature are less common because the homes and buildings have wiring and plumbing in them. Therefore, if lightning strikes a home or a building, it will follow the wiring or plumbing to the ground, according to Jensenius.

“In Uganda and some of the other African countries, many people live in huts or homes that don’t have any wiring or plumbing. So if lightning strikes those homes, it doesn’t have a path to follow to the ground,” Jensenius said.

While these events are rare in the U.S., there is a possibility of it happening if proper lightning safety precautions are not followed. For example, in events where people gather in unsafe structures, such as in an outdoor tent for a wedding or a reunion.

“There is a possibility that if lightning were to strike the tent or nearby, there could be a large number of people killed or seriously injured by a lightning strike,” Jensenius said.

While it is a concern in the U.S., the likelihood of that happening is rare because there are often safe buildings nearby so most people are inside where it is safe.

“If you’re outside at some kind of outdoor event, just simply go in your car and stay there for at least 30 minutes after the last clasp of thunder,” Jensenius said.

The best way to avoid these deadly events is to go inside a substantial, safe building during a storm.

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Lightning strikes transformer

Lightning struck a transformer at S. Main and South Street Friday morning, February 24.

Lightning struck a transformer at S. Main and South Street Friday morning, February 24.

A piece of transformer on the ground after the lightning strike. Courtesy photo.

A piece of transformer on the ground after the lightning strike. Courtesy photo.

By Judy Reed

A lightning strike on Friday morning, February 24, was a narrow miss for a woman and her sister and left a handful of residents without power for about 25 minutes.

According to the woman, N. Green, she and her sister were driving back home to Cedar Springs and ran into a storm front that included lightning and downpours on M57. When they started to turn on to South Street off S. Main St. (where the self car wash is located) they heard a deafening boom that she said left their ears ringing. “The van was then covered with electric arcs which looked like fireworks raining down on us,” she said.

They pulled into the car-wash parking lot and saw the transformer on the utility pole was still smoking from the strike, although the rain put it out quickly. “We were directly next to the utility pole that was hit, driving on South St., which is a gravel road, then full of puddles, and so very blessed that the tires beneath us, grounded us against the electric arcs!” she said. “We were fine, though the van showed some markings.”

Green said the car wash still had power, but when they arrived home, a short distance away, they did not have power, nor did their neighbors.

Green said she called Consumers Energy to report it.

“I was impressed with how quickly they got the power back on,” she said.

According to Roger Morgenstern, spokesman for Consumers Energy, lightning struck a transformer (the cylindrical piece of equipment on a pole that reduces voltage before its sent to customers) and power was out between 9:19 a.m. and 9:44 a.m. for less than 20 customers.

Morganstern said what Green saw raining down like fireworks was likely sparks from the transformer fire instead of actual electrical arcs. However, if the car had become entangled in a downed power line, the rubber tires would’ve helped stop the flow of electricity.

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Lightning blamed for fire at Lake Side Camp Park

This photo shows an electrical panel that was struck by lightning at Lake Side Camp Park on July 11, just prior to a fire there. Photos courtesy of Solon Fire Department.

This photo shows an electrical panel that was struck by lightning at Lake Side Camp Park on July 11, just prior to a fire there. Photos courtesy of Solon Fire Department.

By Judy Reed

A structure fire at Lake Side Camp Park that destroyed a pole barn, burned an RV, damaged a utility truck and melted siding on a home was started by lightning, according to fire investigators.

The fire occurred on July 11 shortly after 1 p.m. at the campground on White Creek Avenue, south of 17 Mile, in Solon Township. Cedar Springs Fire, Algoma Fire, and Kent City Fire provided mutual aid to Solon Fire at the scene.

According to Solon Fire Chief Jeff Drake, Solon Fire worked with the Lake Side Camp Park property insurance carrier licensed investigator Timothy Raha, of Nederveld, and Algoma Fire Chief Troy Guerra to search for a cause and origin of the fire.

“This work involved interviewing the owners, workers, and some guests of the facility,” explained Drake. “The work also involved digging through the burned remains of the building and contents, and investigating the utility connections.”

Drake said that during this process, evidence of a lightning strike was found in an electrical panel near the barn. “The Solon Fire Department will list the cause of this fire as ‘heat-generated from a lightning strike’, which is also the official cause listed by the insurance provider’s investigation,” he stated.

Drake had told the Post two weeks ago that they knew that an electrical storm had moved through the area just prior to the fire, but they weren’t ruling anything out.

The barn, which belonged to park owner Rich Lupico, was used as a maintenance shop.

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Fire destroys family home


This home caught fire Saturday morning. Photo from woodtv.com


Lightning struck an Oakfield Township home Saturday morning, July 18, sparking a blaze that destroyed the home.

The fire occurred shortly before 12 p.m. on Crawford Lake Trail, in the area of Wabasis and 15 Mile.

The homeowners, Craig and Lori Reppert were not there at the time, but reportedly received a call from a neighbor letting them know. A kitten died in the fire.

The family is currently staying in a hotel. A Gofundme page has been set up for them. If you’d like to help, you can visit it at: http://www.gofundme.com/reppertvanderslik.

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Lightning strikes


A bolt of lightning struck a pine tree in the backyard of a home on W. Muskegon Street, near Grant Street, early Tuesday afternoon, sending shards of wood catapulting through the air and into the road in front of the home.

The sound of the strike was heard all over town.

It looked like the tree had exploded. There was debris all over the yard, on the garage, at the neighbor’s home and in the street. Police and DPW arrived within minutes to remove the tree from the roadway.

N-Tree-hit-by-lightning2It’s a good reminder to never take shelter under a tree during a thunderstorm. Instead, get inside a sturdy shelter and wait for the storm to pass.


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Keep an eye to the sky

This is a photo of the Willow, Michigan tornado near Detroit in June, 2010.

April showers might bring May flowers, but they are also a sign that another severe weather season is here. Residents should remember to keep an eye to the sky when attending outdoor events.

“With hundreds of fun outdoor activities each year throughout Michigan, it is important to know what do if you are outside and severe weather strikes,” said Rich Pollman, Chair of the Michigan Committee for Severe Weather Committee.

* Remember the following when you are attending outside events:

* Check the weather forecast before leaving your house.

* When you arrive check around for the nearest shelter.

* Seek shelter when you first hear thunder, see dark threatening clouds developing overhead or lightning.  Count the seconds between the time you see lightning and hear the thunder.  You should already be in a safe location if that time is less than 30 seconds.

* If you can’t find a shelter, get into a fully enclosed vehicle. Put your head down below the windows, covering it with your hands or blanket.

* Stay inside until 30 minutes after you last hear thunder. Lightning can strike more than 10 miles away from any rainfall.

To assist those planning outdoor events, the Michigan Committee for Severe Weather Awareness has developed a brochure to help develop an emergency plan those organizing farmers’ markets, fairs and concerts. It is available on the website, www.mcswa.com.

In 2010, tornadoes and thunderstorms resulted in one death, 22 injuries and $360 million in damages in Michigan.  Flooding caused another $7 in damages.

It is important for Michiganians to be familiar with severe weather alerts.  A tornado watch or severe thunderstorm watch simply means that severe thunderstorms and tornadoes are possible.  Residents should gather a first aid kit, flashlight and portable radio or their emergency supply kit.  They should monitor the weather through local television, radio or NOAA weather radio.

A tornado warning means that a tornado has been sighted or is indicated on Doppler Radar.  Go immediately to the basement or a small interior room on the lowest level.  Keep away from chimneys and windows.  Leave mobile homes and find shelter in a sturdy building.

When a thunderstorm warning is issued for your area, get indoors immediately and do not use the telephone or electrical appliances. Keep away from windows.  Do not take shelter in sheds or under isolated trees. If you are out boating and swimming, get to land and find a sturdy shelter immediately.

To prepare for severe weather, the Michigan Committee for Severe Weather Awareness suggests that you:

* Plan ahead. Be sure everyone in your household knows where to go and what to do in case of severe weather.  Make plans for those who may have trouble getting to shelter.

* Have emergency supplies on hand, including a battery-operated radio, a flashlight and a fresh supply of batteries.

* Know the shelter locations in public buildings, such as work, schools and shopping centers.

* Make a list of household furnishings and other items.  Take photographs of each room.  Store the list and photos in safe place.

* Have an emergency communication plan.  Know how to reach family and friends if you are unable to meet at home.

* Create an emergency plan for your pets.

See below for more safety tips, or visit the Michigan Committee for Severe Weather Awareness website at www.mcswa.com. The Committee is also on Facebook.


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