Facts about Lightning

Enlightening Facts about Lightning

Once the leading edge of a thunderstorm approaches to within 10 miles, you are at immediate risk due to the possibility of lightning strokes coming from the overhanging anvil cloud. Because of this, many lightning deaths and injuries occur with clear skies directly overhead.

Average Lightning stroke is 6-8 miles long

Average thunderstorm is 6-10 miles wide.

Average thunderstorm travels at a rate of 25 miles per hour.

On average, thunder can only be heard over a distance of 3-4 miles, depending on humidity, terrain, and other factors.

Approximately 100,000 thunderstorms occur in the United States each year.

Approximately 10% of all thunderstorms are severe enough to produce high winds, flash floods, and tornadoes.

Thunderstorms cause an average of 200 deaths and 700 injuries in the United States alone each year, most of which could be prevented.

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Lightning hits field, injures 15 in Forney, Texas

From a Dallas-Fort Worth newspaper (August 29, 1995)

A bolt of lightning jolted a high school football field during afternoon practice yesterday, injuring 12 players, two coaches and a student trainer in the small town of Forney, 20 miles east of Dallas.

Sophomore Clay Jones, 15, suffered cardiac arrest and burns. He remained in critical condition last night at Baylor University Medical Cetner in Dallas.

Three students were in stable condition last night, five were still being evaluated and four others, including the female trainer, were treated and released, said Jeff Place, the evening administrator at Baylor.

The coaches-Brad Turner and Horlos Cotton Barrett - were released from the Medical Center of Mesquite about 8 p.m., a hospital spokeswoman said.

A light drizzle had just stopped when lightning hit the football field at 3:56 p.m. during daily practice of the combined varsity and junior varsity squads. The jolt left more than 30 players and coaches sprawled on the turf.

"We all hit the ground, and it was quiet for two or three seconds until they told us to hit the fieldhouse," said Oscar Rivera, 17, a varsity linebacker.

Coaches of the District 12-3A team stayed on the field, giving first aid to two junior varsity players who remained on the ground - Jones and sophomore Nick Purvis.

"It was like an explosion," said Rivera. You could feel it, and you smelled it burning."

Defensive end Raphael Dewberry said: "We heard a thump, and we all hit the ground. I was real close to one of the guys who got hit bad. I felt like a thump in my helmet, like somebody hit me with a bat or something. We all laid on the ground and on the count of three we all ran into the fieldhouse."

Once inside the fieldhouse, the players prayed.

"Right after we prayed was when they said they got a pulse on Clay," said Sean Daugherty, 17, a varsity linebacker.

"If this kid makes it, it's probably due to some fast acting by the coaches" who administered cardiopulmonary resusciatation, Forney Police Chief Rick Barnes said.

Daugherty and Rivera were among dozens of players and parents who converged at the Baylor emergency room last night, keeping tabs on the injured who had arrived still dressed in their football jerseys.

Addendum. Clay Jones died from his injuries a few weeks later. Lightning reportedly struck his helmet and the jolt of electricity sent him into cardiac arrest. A week prior to his death, hist parents said that their son's vital signs were strong but that his brain was swollen and that their biggest concern was potential brain damage. They said then that doctors had told them it could be days or weeks before the extent of damage was known.

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WCSC Investigating Use of Skyscan Lightning Detector

The Washington County Soccer Club is evaluating SkyScan, the first computerized hand-held lightning/thunderstorm detector. The SkyScan has been recently tested for accuracy at the District IV All-Star Little League Baseball Finals in Lake Wale, Florida; Duke Soccer Camp in Durham, North Carolina; the U.S. Senior Open at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Maryland; and during football practice at Texas Christan University (TCU) in Fort Worth, Texas. The dtorm cell that went through Fort Worth on August 29, 1995 also passed through Forney, Texas where a young man died from a lightning strike while on the football practice field.

SkyScan has received very postive comments from around the country. It detects burst of electromagnetic radiation - in the forms of very low frequency radio signals - generated by lightning flashes. The SkyScan device can determine the range of the lightning flash up to 40 miles away.

WCSC's initial evaluation of the SkyScan product is favorable. It has been accurate for the storms we have monitored. We hope to use the SkyScan detector to help determine when to suspend or terminate games at the Bartlesville soccer complex. More information is available upon request.

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Remember It's Only a Game

There comes a time when, regardless of all the built-in rules and safeguards, safety of the players is subject to human guesswork.

The score is close in the second half. The two teams have played a hard fought game. The sky is getting dark all the time and thunder rumbles in the distance.

The coaches and officials agree that unless they see lightning, the approaching storm is far enough away to finish the game. What they don't know is they are already in imminent danger. Thunder always means lightning...even if you can't see it. This has always been one of the toughest calls in sports.

Nothing is the whole world is as important as a game in progress, and the temptation to finish is only human. But, no game needs to be a life or death decision.

Everyone, parents, players, referees, coaches, need to work together to assess the suitability of the weather while remembering that it is the final decision of the referee to decide if a game is going to continue.

This is a big responsibility for you referees, and you must take it seriously. Even if the danger to the players from lightning is relatively small, suspend the game and get off the field to a place of safety.

For the rest of you, if you are at a game where you feel the weather is unsafe but the referees will not suspend the game, you have every right to leave the game and take your kids with you. A loss by forfeit is the worst that can possibly occur if you leave a match before the referee has called for suspension. This is a relatively small price to pay when compared to the alternative.

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