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Posted at 10:45 AM ET, 06/25/2008

Lightning Myths Revealed

By Capital Weather Gang

Wx and the City


Lightning strikes in the nation's capital last summer. By Capital Weather Gang photographer Kevin Ambrose.

By Ann Posegate, Guest Contributor

For 50,000 points, here is this week's Lightning Safety Week question: By which number must you divide after counting the seconds between the "flash" of lightning and the "bang" of thunder in order to calculate how many miles away a bolt of lightning is?

Keep reading for the answer, as well as some common lightning myths and safety tips. See our full forecast through the weekend, and NatCast if you're bound for tonight's game at Nationals Park.

With a good possibility of thunderstorms later in the week and weekend, I encourage you to visit the National Weather Service Lightning Safety Week Web site before I hand over the answer.

Why?

Because an average of 62 people are killed in the United States each year by lightning. Hundreds more are injured. From 1998 to 2007, there were seven lightning fatalities in Maryland, including a very unfortunate case (PDF) of a teenage girl getting struck while waiting for a bus in Prince Georges County last summer, and nine in Virginia. Although there have been no lightning fatalities in D.C. recently, that's too close for my comfort.

True, severe thunderstorms can be amazing and energizing to watch. But, it always "strikes" me as odd that people take risks by being outside when there is potential for lightning. Because I am a supporter of preventative health care, here are a few common lightning myths and safety tips revealed:

Myth: It won't happen to me. I only have a few blocks to walk...
Truth: Lightning victims in the U.S. have been struck while: boating, standing under a tree, riding a horse, swimming, riding on a lawnmower, playing soccer, golfing, talking on a phone, bike riding, loading a truck, mountain climbing and more.

Myth: There is no danger from lightning if it is not raining.
Truth: Lightning is a given during thunderstorms, and can strike up to 10 miles outside any rainfall. It frequently strikes more than three miles from the thunderstorm, where there may be no rain or storm clouds.

Myth: If my kids are playing in a baseball game and a thunderstorm rolls in, they should finish the game before seeking shelter.
Truth: Show this (PDF) to your coach before the game. Before the thunderstorm approaches, everyone should go into a sturdy building that has electricity and plumbing, or into their cars.

For more lightning myth-busters, read this (PDF). For severe weather safety tips, see Earth Gauge.

Oh, and in case you were wondering...the answer is five!

Ann Posegate is an Outreach Coordinator for the National Environmental Education Foundation

By Capital Weather Gang  | June 25, 2008; 10:45 AM ET
Categories:  Posegate, Thunderstorms, Wx and the City  
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