Killed in Electrical Storms
Paraphrased by Steve Waldrop
August 8, 2002
More electrical storms are predicted
to hit the East Coast this week after a weekend in which lightning
took four lives.
The storms should bring some relief
to the East Coast, which has been scorching in a string of days
with temperatures of 90 degrees or higher. As August begins, the
summer is well ahead of last year for sweltering days: Cities such
as Washington, New York and Philadelphia have all seen more 90 degree
days this year , than compared to this time last year.
In an intense lighting storm Friday,
5,000-7,000 lightning strikes hit the New York area within three
hours. Lightning is five times hotter than the sun. A single bolt
can reach 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit
One killed a New York City man as he
stood on his apartment building roof to watch the storm. A Maryland
man died Saturday when he was struck while standing on his backyard
deck. A 16-year-old Boy Scout was killed by lightning during a camping
trip to Pennsylvania. In Texas, a man was struck while working in
a rice field in Needville, 30 miles southwest of Houston.
One of the most magnificent natural phenomena, lightning is often
believed to be an infrequent occurrence. Although cloud to ground
lightning strikes pose the most danger to people on the ground,
they make up only approximately 20% of all lightning strikes. In
actuality, lightning hits the earth an estimated 100 times per second
or 8.6 million times a day.
Lightning is an electrical discharge
produced to balance the differences between positive and negative
charges within a cloud, between clouds or between the cloud and
ground. During a thunderstorm, not only is the ground positively
charged, so is everything on it. The tallest object in the area
is most likely to be struck, whether it is a building, tree or a
person standing alone in a field.
It is estimated that the U.S. alone
receives as many as 20 million cloud-to-ground lightning strikes
per year from perhaps 100,000 thunderstorms.
At least 10 people have died from lightning
strikes in the past month. In all of last year 44 people were killed.