Jul 29 2011
Monday morning a storm was brewing when I looked out the window and saw a roofer walking on Central Catholic’s steep slate roof. He and his crew had come to replace a few bad slates.
I have a healthy fear of heights and lightning so I was morbidly fascinated. Would they be macho about the storm or would they leave?
Two of them were up there when a brief downpour swept by. The roof became slippery. They sat down.
The next time I looked the crew was off the main roof waiting on a lower level while the boss walked the ridgepole. He examined the approaching black cloud with professional interest. There was lightning in it. He pointed out the cloud’s leading edge to the crew as it slowly moved south. Would he get off that roof?!?!
I know enough about lightning that I didn’t want to see what might happen. I stopped watching.
In most years lightning kills more people than tornadoes and hurricanes combined. (This year’s Joplin tornado turned that statistic on its head.) Most people survive lightning strikes but have lifelong health problems afterward. Most people are hit by lightning when it’s not raining — probably because they don’t take shelter unless it rains.
I avoid lightning and have learned that…
- The safest place to be is in an enclosed building that has plumbing or wiring (or lightning rods!) or in a car with a metal roof (not a convertible).
- Lightning hits tall objects (don’t stand under something tall; don’t be tall yourself) and it travels through the ground (don’t lie flat; don’t stand near metal fences).
- If I’m ever stuck outdoors and can’t run for shelter I try to crouch in this position to protect myself. Fortunately I’ve only had to do this once. It’s nearly impossible not to fall over in the lightning crouch. It takes your mind off how scared you are.
A friend once told me a harrowing story of being in a rustic cabin in Canada during a nighttime thunderstorm. Lightning repeatedly hit the ground and came up through the floor. It made the bedsprings glow. Yikes!
My worst scare was the time I parked at the top of Laurel Mountain and hiked down the Tebolt Trail at Quebec Run Wild Area. Thunderstorms were predicted to arrive at 2:00pm but I lost track of time. At 1:00pm I heard thunder and knew it would take at least an hour to walk back up the mountain no matter how fast I went. I started to walk and run uphill. By the time I reached the top of the mountain the storm was quite close and I was praying and bargaining, “Not now! Please wait!” I made it to the car, slammed the door and “BOOM!” The lightning didn’t hit me but my heart sure beat fast!
I could never be a roofer.
And, yes, the roofers left before the storm.
p.s. Do you have any close calls with lightning? As I said, I’m morbidly fascinated.
(photo by ”jcpjr” from Shutterstock.com)