Lightning, tornadoes and floods ... oh my!

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Shawn Turcotte
  • 21st Space Wing safety office
I want to start off this article with a quick quiz to test your storm knowledge. First question...What is the first thing members should not do if a tornado is confirmed heading in your direction. 

A) Begin those remodeling plans you have been putting off
B) Put the dog or cat out (unless on a LONG leash)
C) Cancel your homeowners insurance
D) None of the above. 

Hopefully everyone answered D and said go to a predetermined shelter area or low lying area if outdoors. If a tornado is confirmed heading in someone's direction, they are now under a Tornado Warning. If a Tornado Watch is called, it means conditions are right for a tornado to form. 

Next quiz question. A member is more likely to be struck by lightning while doing which of the following activities: 

A) Swimming in a river, lake or other body of water.
B) Taking a bath
C) Talking on the telephone
D) Doing your Caddyshack imitation and playing through a golf game in a thunderstorm. 

Okay, stop trying. In each of these incidents, a member would have have a pretty good chance of being struck in any of these scenarios, but most likely, the golfer. This is not just because of the oddly-colored pants or the wrath of God thing, but do to the fact golfers often find themselves caught in open spaces far from shelter when a thunderstorm rolls in. And hey, the lightning rod called Big Bertha doesn't help. 

The fact is when lightning is in an area, people should seek shelter immediately if outdoors. If no structure is available, get to a low area and squat low to the ground with hands on the knees. If in the woods, find an area protected by a low clump of trees. Remember to avoid tall structures such as towers, fences and power and telephone lines, and by all means, stay away from golf clubs. 

When in a car, pull safely to the shoulder of the road, away from any trees that could fail on the vehicle, stay in your car and put on the emergency flashers. The four rubber tires will keep a person safer than wandering out into the storm. If indoors, do not handle electrical equipment or telephones, and remember, televisions are particularly dangerous at this time, even more so than summer re-runs. Members should avoid bathtubs, water faucets and sinks; metal pipes do a good job of transmitting electricity. 

Another danger that comes along with thunderstorms is floods. Flash floods can be very common in this area and there danger should not be underestimated. Do not walk or drive through flooded areas. It can take as little as six inches of swiftly moving water to sweep someone off their feet and as little as two feet will take most vehicles. If someone lives in a flood prone area and a flash flood warning is called, they must get to higher ground immediately. 

Members of the 21st Space Wing should take heed of this information. It could mean the difference between life and death. Take care this summer and of course ... be safe!