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Thunder and Lightning
Have you ever gone for a walk and been caught in the middle of a storm? It’s bad enough when the rain is lashing down, but when the thunder starts to rumble and it gets darker, you can guess what’s coming next. I’ve never been close to a lightning strike, until today. I took a walk along the beach path in Paphos, Cyprus, which normally looks like this.
But not today. By the time I had parked up it was extremely windy. But I persevered even though it was getting darker and darker. The wind suddenly whipped up and darkness fell deeper still. Then the rain came lashing down and the thunder rumbled away. Suddenly, in the middle of the day, it became very dark and then the sky lit up. Lightning is impressive over the Mediterranean Sea, and some nights it looks pink. Today it was white hot, and it slammed with such force into the sea close by where I was walking, I had the urge to duck. I half expected to see the sea boiling, but no, there was no evidence of any lightning strike. This made me think, what would happen to me if the lightning strike had been a little closer?
A Direct Strike
As you can guess, a direct strike is something to be avoided at all costs. Although not as common as other forms of lightning strikes, they are usually extremely deadly. Your body will have a portion of the current go through the body, either the cardiovascular system or nervous system. Another part moves over the skin and this is known as a flashover. Flashover may cause burns, but the heat and shock of the internal discharge may well cause death, although immediate medical assistance can result in the saving of your life.
A Side Flash
This is where the victim is stood close to an object, more often than not a tree, sheltering from the rain. In essence the victim is a short-circuit and the strike crosses from the tree to the person.
A Ground Current
This is the main culprit for most deaths from lightning strikes. When a strike occurs on an object, a tree for example, the current goes into the ground and spreads out quite a distance, exiting the body at a point furthest from the lightning strike. The potential for death is higher the further from the contact point. Large farm animals like cows can be at extreme risk of death from ground current.
My advice if you get caught in a storm is to keep walking and avoid standing under or even close to a tree. And never, ever, use an umbrella or play golf.
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If it’s raining and stormy weather where you are, stay indoors and settle down with an enjoyable book, preferably one of mine.