Warm summer days mean lightning strikes in the Sierra

Nevada Appeal file photo Lightning strikes east of Silver Springs during a thunderstorm in this photo taken in 2002.

Nevada Appeal file photo Lightning strikes east of Silver Springs during a thunderstorm in this photo taken in 2002.

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Lighting does more than spark fires in the Sierra Nevada.

Two years ago, lightning struck the ground near a Paradise, Calif., man staying at a Lake Tahoe campground. The discharge from the strike sent him to the ground and then the hospital, but he survived.

Some people aren't so lucky. Last year 44 people were killed by lightning, according to the National Weather Service. Although it's a relatively small number, it's more than the number of people killed annually by tornadoes or hurricanes.

Many more people survive lightning strikes, but they often report long-term debilitating symptoms, like memory loss or depression.

For the past four years, the National Weather Service has held made attempts to reduce the number of deaths by lightning with Lightning Awareness Week, which began Sunday and ends Saturday.

Here are some ways to avoid lightning strikes while in the wilderness:

• Watch for developing thunderstorms. Thunderstorms are most likely to develop on warm summer days. Watch for towering cumulus clouds.

• Lightning discharge can be deadly. It isn't just the main strike that can injure or harm you. Many victims are struck as the current moves in and along the ground.

• Know when to seek safe shelter. If you can hear thunder, you are within striking distance.

• Where to find shelter. Move into a completely enclosed building or a hard-topped, all-metal vehicle as soon as possible. Caves are decent shelter, just move as far inside the cave as possible.

• Be the lowest point. If you are above the tree line, you are the highest point. Quickly get below the tree line and in a small grove of trees. Crouch down if you are in an exposed area.

• Things to avoid indoors. Stay away from windows, doors or anything that conducts electricity before a lightning strike.

- Information taken from the National Weather Service Web site

On the Net

For information on Lightning Safety Awareness Week, go to: www.lightningsafety.noaa.gov/index.htm


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