Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Lightning Does Strike Twice?

Apparently lightning does strike twice. The Empire State building has been jolted 23 times.

A similar electrical bolt travelled down our phone line on Tuesday night. Blowing out our landline and our router box. Net result: no Wifi. For FIVE days. The kids were lost. They resorted to watching pirated (not by anyone in this house) dvd’s on their laptops. I was forced to do something reckless.

Without Google, at my fingertips, I had to resort to traditional means of research. A method not often used even in schools these days. I had to look in a thing with a spine, fine print, and professional photos that don’t require loading. I had to look in a reference BOOK.

I packed my laptop and went to my local library. A calm place I frequent, usually for armfuls of leisure reading (renewed before I’m through) and a chat with the friendly librarians, who haven’t lost their jobs due to local body cost cutting.

I keyed in, ‘lightning strikes’ onto the computerized-search-system. Obviously no books have been written purely about electrical storms.  Not to look like a twit I scanned the reference section, on foot.

Bingo. I found, ‘WEATHER, The Ultimate Book of Meteorological Events’.

I lugged the heavy tome to a desk. And discovered all sorts of things which may give me nightmares at random times in the future. Because the father of my three gorgeous children, himself a thrill seeker and regular fun guy, loves to take a spa in a storm.

Snow storms mostly, but last Tuesday when we were delivered, FOC, a rock-et concert of sorts. A THUNDERSTORM.

He said to the children, ‘great night for a spa.’

Our spa pool sits on the roof of our grass roofed house; perfect for star gazing and moon watching. And in this instance, perfect for getting up close and personal with LIGHTNING.

While my precious family subjected themselves to, ‘nature’s fireworks’, I caught up on old recordings of the insipid, Mr Selfridge. And wondered how I’d get four fried humans out of the spa pool before they drowned, and administer mouth to mouth before they died?

It was no cheap show. Thunder clapped and jaggered daggers of lightning seemed to bounce off the lawn in quick succession.

My research told me that people hit by lightning do not carry an electrical charge. Not that that had been a concern. It was more the weight of them. It also said CPR can revive most people who’ve been hit, and the primary cause of death is by heart failure, not burns as often believed. I really must do that First Aid course.

‘OMG it was like rockets blasting off around you,’ they said, once back inside.

Only 100 people die per year in the US from lightning strikes, with 258 receiving LCI, lightning caused injuries.

The aforementioned father takes a practical approach to the forces of nature. So I wasn’t surprised that while spa-ing he’d convinced the children (despite them all being reasonably intelligent and aged 10, 13 & 14) that his empty Speights can, placed beside the spa pool would act as an anode.

Oh yes, that little can would suck up the 200-million-volt-electrical-charge, should it STRIKE. Thus saving them from mortal danger. If he was a real southern man he would have offered to hold onto the can standing beside the pool. Getting out of water and boats is recommended.

Or better still just leave the spa empty of human targets, with the lid off. At 60,000 degrees Fahrenheit a jolt, one hit would reduce the water heating bill for a day or two.

It may have been during all the rooftop fun and frivolity that the “…high-voltage electrical charge between a cloud and the earth…lasting only few tenths of a second” zip zapped down our phone line.

Lucky for me, I wasn’t making a call at the time. I may have singed my ear.  Taps are also best avoided, connected to copper piping and all. Plus small electric appliances, which have been reduced to ugly paperweights in Florida. Real thunderstorm country.

FYI lightening travels from the ground TO the cloud, not the other way. But the jagged channels they follow are actually formed by the cloud to the ground a split second before the lightening.

Next time you’re outside during a thunder storm and you feel the hairs prickle on the back of your neck; drop your metal golf clubs and don’t stand under a tall tree. That feeling is the electricity forming its channel.

‘Ancient Africans believed the people who were struck by lightning had incurred the wrath of gods. These lightning strikes were considered bolts of justice.”

Mmm let’s hope lightning doesn’t strike twice at our place.

I checked my reference book out and took it home. Still admiring its vibrant coffee-table-sized-photo-filled bookiness. I’ll dip back into it at my leisure. I’ll check out other weather phenomenon. No need to press a switch, click on a tab or search browser history for bookmarks I failed to store.

The children may find it interesting too. In fact I’ll leave it lying around for all the family. It’s mine for three weeks. Six if no one requests it.

After all, it’s a book.

Footnote: (from the internet, which is back on phew) “Weather guru Bob McDavitt said the death toll in New Zealand for lightning strikes was about one a decade, while farm stock deaths was about several per year.”
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  1. Feel edified and glad that the kiddies and hubby didn't get electrocuted while in the spa. Like to see how that can would look after anode use.

  2. Yeah! Someone just told me about a US park ranger who got struck by lightning 7 times. I doubt cans were involved.


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