Thunderstorms of recent days have had me thinking of the Garth Brooks song, “The Thunder Rolls” depicting an unfaithful guy returning home before dawn with lipstick on his collar emitting the essence of strange perfume. The song is set to the rumble of thunder, adding an ominous quality to the scenario. You’d hope when his wife got through with him, he’d look like a bolt of lightening illuminated his britches.
A group of guys were playing soccer in the Houston area a few days ago when a thunderstorm struck. Unwisely seeking shelter beneath the overhanging branches of a big oak, two died when a lightening bolt smashed the oak to smithereens. You don’t have to be out on late-night shenanigans to feel the effect of lightening; it can happen anytime there is a thunderstorm going on.
North Louisiana has not seen the excessive heat and serious drought conditions that have affected other parts of the country. Thankfully, this area has seen showers and generally cooler temperatures, a welcomed departure from last summer’s conditions. Several of these blessed showers have been accompanied by thunder and lightening, and occasionally, a bolt of lightening has been of that “deadly cloud to ground” variety the forecasters warn us about. Fortunately, there have been no reported injuries or fatalities.
At Lincoln Parish Park, an oak tree growing among pines towering several yards above it was a victim of a lightening strike recently. Earlier, and just down the road from where we live, an oak standing among pines was the target of a lightening bolt.
These two occurrences prompted me to do an on-line search to see if oaks are targeted more often than other trees. My search provided the answer – oaks are among species of trees more likely to be singled out by a lightening bolt.
During my search, I learned some other facts about lightening that were both fascinating and chilling. Here’s what happens when lightening strikes a tree.
If a tree is well-hydrated, the intense heat caused by the bolt causes the bark and wood to be blown off the tree and here’s why; steam generated by sap boiling causes the wood to literally explode. What is impressive is that this all takes place in less than a second.
According to statistics, 24,000 people are killed and 240,000 are injured around the world each year by lightening. In the U.S., lightening is the number two weather-related killer, second only to floods.
What are your chances of being struck by lightening? The odds are about the same as your chances of hitting all the Power Ball numbers, about 1 in 1,000,000. Even so, it can and does happen.
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Fishermen and boaters should be especially mindful of approaching weather because not only lightening but high winds can create havoc. I was fishing with a friend once on Lake Claiborne when a thunderstorm approached so quickly we didn’t have time to make it back to the landing. We rode out the storm inside a nearby boat house.
The general rule for being on the water during a thunderstorm is really simple. Get the heck out of there but if caught before being able to get off the water, get as low in the boat as you can to avoid being the highest object in the boat. Remember the 30/30 rule: when you see lightening and you can’t count to 30 before hearing thunder, it’s time to leave. Also, stay inside for 30 minutes after hearing the last clap of thunder.
Don’t take chances with lightening. To do so can produce results worse than the cheater in the Garth Brooks song.