Tag Archives: lightning safety

28 Lightning Fatalities To Date

Tonight I was introduced to the late Jesse Watlington, a Fort Myers, Fla. sixth-grader who succumbed to a lightning strike on Oct. 3, 2012 (Yes, lightning strikes year round). As the story goes, Watlington, one of the smallest players on his middle school football team, was the first to take to the field for football practice. Moments later, he was struck. His teammates, while they felt an electric surge, went unharmed.

Watlington is the 28th lightning fatality in 2012.


Photo courtesy National Weather Service

A number that is way too high, which leaves me wondering – how can lightning safety education curriculums and lightning prevention systems become more prevalent throughout our nation?

It’s my belief that education juxtaposed with prevention systems will thwart mothers and fathers the heartache of planning funerals for their children, such as the Watlingtons and the Weisbrods did before them.

I hope to have a hand in making that happen – won’t you join me?


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Record Low for Lightning Deaths in 2011

According to an article published by The Washington Post entitled “Record low for lightning deaths in 2011 but tornado deaths third highest; why the disparity?,”

lightning deaths were lowest in the 71-years of record keeping. Just 26 people were killed by lightning in 2011, which is amazing considering the frequency of violent severe weather outbreaks across the U.S. By comparison, 551 people were killed by tornadoes in 2011, the most since 1950 and third highest on record according to NOAA.”

Why so few lightning deaths?

The article credits “a successful public education campaign,” as stated by John Jensenius, the National Weather Service‘s lightning expert.

“In large part, the reduction in lightning fatalities is due to the efforts of many people and organizations who help educate the public on the dangers of lightning and make the public more aware of our lightning safety recommendations,” he said.

When I started this blog in September of 2008, I wrote, “It is in this weblog that I plan to show North Jersey’s progression of installing the lightning detection as well as promoting awareness.” Today, in January of 2012, I am proud to say that I have had a hand in changing the lightning death statistics. I’d like to think that this blog – despite its small stature compared to the vast Internet world, has made a difference.

I’d also like to thank you, the reader, because without you reading (and learning), those statistics wouldn’t have changed.

And, of course, I’d like to thank Lee Weisbrod. This new finding further proves that his death was not in vain.

Here’s to keeping lightning deaths at a minimum…

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Convenience vs. Safety

Currently we are in prime thunderstorm season. A thunderstorm is just as likely these days as the ever present humidity. Even though thunderstorms are prevalent during the summer months and the media coverage of safety techniques and horror stories are told, individuals still place convenience over their safety.

According to an article written by JoNel Aleccia from msnbc.com, lightning safety is an inconvenience. Deadly Bolts: Lightning Survivors Stress Safety reads,

“The trouble is that too few people take thunder and lightning seriously… They play one more hole of golf, or go for a hike or a run despite a gathering storm. They’ll dash across a parking lot in an cloudburst or linger in a boat on a lake a little too long.”

I’ll be the first one to tell you that prior to the loss of my best friend from a lightning strike, I didn’t give the severity of lightning a thought. I’d watch thunderstorms from an inch away of the glass windows. I’d run from a building through the down pouring rain and thunder to reach my dry car. My younger brother even once jokingly took a shower (in his boxer briefs) during a storm while running and doing cartwheels around our front yard.

The truth is prior to becoming a victim or the family/friend of a victim, you do not place the safety before the convenience. It is a constant balancing act that requires patience and time. Yes, it is more convenient to run through the parking lot to your car during a storm but at what risk? Chronic pain? Hypersensitivity? Memory lapses? Brain damage? Death?

As the prime season of thunderstorms continue become a member of the safety over convenience group without having to suffer a victimizing event.

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With A Flash Of Light

With a flash of light, this semester at Rowan University has come to an end. With winter break on the horizon followed by my last semester before graduating in May, I have become very reflective.

In my time at Rowan, I have been introduced to many diverse elements of journalism; however, this online journalism course has been one of the most influential.

I am grateful for the opportunity to not only further grieve for the loss of my best friend, Lee Weisbrod, but also for the opportunity to educate the public on lightning, the underrated killer.

Due to the overwhelming interest in lightning detection and safety throughout Bergen County, I will be continuing my blog in order to further educate and provide information as long as it is available.

While blog posts will not continue two times a week, as per part of my class assignment, they will steadily continue – so continue checking back for the newest information regarding lightning in the Bergen County area.

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Lightning Threatens School Fun

It’s hard to be the parent, teacher, coach, or umpire that has to call the game and end the fun; however, someone has to do it when lightning is in the area.

Schools have a high concentration of students, teachers, and the public at any given time. Specifically individuals are present during outdoor school events such as football games, track meets, and graduations.

In order to prevent bodily injury, school administrations must be aware of lightning safety. Further schools should provide a specialized lightning protection program.

A lightning protection program should consist of:

  1. Constantly updated weather reports. Weather reports must be reviewed prior to outdoor events and activities this way an educated decision of whether to postpone or cancel activities can be made promptly.
  2. A chain of command. By having a chain of command present, decisions can be made effectively. When a decision to evacuate is made, the chain of command must be the leaders to ensure safety.
  3. Have an emergency response plan. An emergency response plan should be in place. In addition, it should be known by all individuals present. Drills (similar to fire drills) would ensure knowledge and practice of the plan in place.
  4. Name “safe places.” Students and teachers must know where the closest “safe places” are in relation to outdoor fields.
  5. Learn CPR. Students and teachers should learn CPR in order to assist an individual struck by lightning.

* The tips where combiled based on available research on sites such as The National Weather Service, The National Severe Storm Laboratory, and The National Lightning Safety Institute.

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