Archive for Thursday, October 14, 2010

Bolt of power

October 14, 2010

Recently I went to Shawnee Mission West to watch my grandson’s football game in threatening, at best, weather conditions. Before the game got underway, the players were sent back to the locker room and shortly thereafter, the game was postponed. The reason was the threat of lightning and severe weather.

The school officials were right, too. Within 20 minutes, there was a heavy deluge, punctuated with thunder and lightning. The weather could have a serious threat to the players and fans. The game was one of many activities that week that were postponed or canceled due to weather.

Both Bonner Springs and Basehor-Linwood sporting events had to be rescheduled that week and this has happened many times over the years. It isn’t a local problem either. During the bad weather in September, a couple of major league games were halted and a KSU football game was held up. Even Europe was victim to the elements with the Ryder Cup held in Wales being halted by lightning.

Back in the dark ages when I was young, I can’t remember a postponement. Either we didn’t have as much bad weather or officials weren’t aware of the danger.

They should have been, since there are 2,000 deaths around the world each year due to lightning strike. In addition there are many thousands of injuries also occurring from lightning. Quite simply, it is a very real danger and something that many don’t take seriously, and I’m glad school officials are alert and act quickly.

The first Bonner Springs game interrupted by rain and lightning that I remember came in 1986 at Bishop Miege. Late in the second quarter you could tell the weather was growing dangerous. I think the game was late in the second period when officials halted action. I remember realizing we were in a metal stadium as we quickly exited and ran for shelter from the driving rain. The game resumed action at the point where it was halted and the Braves won on Monday afternoon by the score of 6-0. I believe the Basehor game was completed on Saturday morning.

Lightning and heavy rain also hit professional sports. I was in the Chiefs’ press box in 1998 when a serious storm blew in. It rained so hard the press box leaked, sending reporters scrambling to protect laptops and notes. The worst was ahead for me when Jean called to tell that water was leaking at the Chieftain building and I was needed immediately. I raced to my car and started down I-70, only to be directed to a detour that meandered to a route that would allow drivers to escape high water. I finally made it to the Plaza and faced police officers directing drivers around swirling waters. I made it to Shawnee Mission Parkway, only to find another flood detour. Finally, I took I-35 to Olathe and K-7 back to Bonner Springs.

A lightning strike can carry a lot of power — up to about one billion volts of electricity. A bolt of lightning is hotter than the surface of the sun. All of this means that lightning is very dangerous and a power that can kill or maim. All of us have heard of instances when lightning strikes caused fires that destroyed homes, zapped electrical devices or started forest fires.

The National Lightning Safety Institute urges those caught in a lightning storm to avoid water, high ground and open spaces. The organization adds that you should stay away from metal objects, including machinery and fences. Trees, canopies and small picnic shelters are not safe during a storm, but anyone caught in a lightning storm is urged to seek shelter in a substantial building, car, truck or van with the windows shut.

Lightning is dangerous, certainly, but problems can be avoided by using common sense and following simple safety rules.


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