Lightning Phenomenon Lightning is a natural phenomenon that occurs more often than we think it does. That streaking flash, followed by a loud rumbling noise, that makes your knees buckle is very dangerous because of its unpredictable striking force. Being struck by lightning can be deadly, so the more precautions you take ahead of time, the safer you are. Lightning not only affects us, it also has a great impact on our man-made structures and of course, our natural surroundings. According to Professor Martin Uman, one of the worlds leading lightning experts: Lightning is an effect of electrification within a thunderstorm.
As the thunderstorm develops, interactions of charged particles produce an intense electrical field within the cloud. A large positive charge is usually concentrated in the frozen upper layers of the cloud and a large negative charge with a smaller positive are is found in the lower portions. (4) This produces what you see, a lightning flash, which may be “two or 300 feet long” (25). The flash itself may be only as wide as a pencil, but because it is extremely hot, hotter than the sun, its glow appears to be very wide to the human eye. When lightning pushes the air from its path, it expands it quickly causing a 2 loud explosion, which we call thunder (25).
William R. Newcott, part of the National Geographic Editorial Staff, describes lightning as a “river of electricity rushing through a canyon of air. Moving [SIC] fast as 100,000 miles a second, lightning sears wild and unstoppable through twisted channel as long as ten miles,” (83) he explained. Lightning, being a natural occurrence, is very unpredictable which makes it even more dangerous. Martin Uman, director of the University of Floridas Lightning Research Laboratory is quoted in Omni saying, “A man was talking on a telephone near Gainesville, Florida, when lightning hit the wires.
He died instantly, electrocuted. Three or four people die that way every year” (Wolkomir 1). It is hard to believe that someone could just die while using the phone. You never know what will happen next when it comes to lightning. In fact, even in recent weeks, the state of New Jersey was hit by lightning causing various dangers.
On June 6, 1996, a Sewaren oil storage tank in Woodbridge, New Jersey, was hit by lightning causing a ferocious explosion. This fire blazed for an unbelievable 28 hours. According to a staff report in the Asbury Park Press, two employees attempting to turn off the power to the area “suffered electrical burns, and were apparently the only casualties” (A1). Fortunately, the 3 other tanks did not explode, or a few more casualties might have resulted. Many people in the area felt and heard the force of the explosion.
Staff writers add, that “nearby relaxing in his boat off Cliff Road, Rick Bothwell reported feeling the explosion, even on the water. I heard a bang and a whoosh. It felt like an explosion out of a tube, he said” (A1). Inland, nearby neighbors also felt the impact of the explosion. “The ground just rumbled from the front of house to the back, said Richard Swallick, who lives on West Avenue within a few hundred yards of the tank field” (A1). Experts are very unsure as to what caused this almost disastrous explosion.
Also in this article, “Elaine Makatura, a spokeswoman for the state department of Environmental Protection, said it was too early to speculate on what the environmental impact of the blaze will be” (Staff Report A5). In otherwords, they dont know if any harmful chemicals were released during the blaze. Contaminants in the air could cause a serious problem for neighbors of the gas store area. After something like this happens, the question that comes to mind, is can lightning strike twice? Well, according to Bernhard Warner, a staff writer for the Asbury Park Press, there was a smaller explosion in Linden, New Jersey, at the Tosco Refining Co. shortly before the one in Woodbridge exploded (A5). A 4 manager at the refinery would not say whether lightning caused the fire, because it is still under investigation.
It seems the more things, we learn about nature, the more questions arise. Bob Friant, a spokesman for the State Department of Community Affairs, is quoted in the Home News and Tribune, by Sean P. Carr, saying “we have never been able to conquer Mother Nature, and we never will be” (B1). He has a real optimistic point of view, huh. Although, after Carr points out that their are “thirty-five fuel storage tank facilities, some of the dozens of tanks each store millions of gallons, dot the Shore of Central and Northern New Jersey waterways,” (B1) the chance of this happening again seems likely.
Furthermore, Martin Uman continues saying, “At any moment, planet wide, about 2,000 thunderstorms are in progress. Each storm generates a flash every 20 seconds” (4). That is unbelievable. Now I can understand how there are so many deaths and injuries from people being struck by lightning. The more thunderstorms, the more chances lightning will strike. If you give lightning enough chances, it is bound to hit something.
In the time it takes you to read this sentence, lightning has flashed more than 500 times (4), Uman notes. Facts like that are really amazing to me. How could lightning have just flashed 500 times? This is because most of the lightning flashes we see are cloud-to-ground strokes, but they “compromise only 5 about 20 percent of lightning” (4). Much more frequent are flashes within clouds. Although lightning kills many Americans every year, luckily some victims of lightning hits have lived to tell about the experience.
More than a year after lightning nearly killed him during football practice, Tony Trice still does not want to talk about it (Newcott 90). According to eyewitnesses in Burtonsville, Maryland: “They saw a bolt tear a hole in the high schoolers helmet, burn his jersey, and blow his shoes off. Toys breathing stopped, but he was resuscitated on the spot” (90). It is unbelievable that this teenager survived after being hit by one of natures unpredictable and deadliest forces. How is it possible someone could survive after being struck by lightning? Researchers at the University of Queenland in Australia have traced the path followed by lightning when it enters a living creature (Dayton 1) and according these researchers: simulated lightning strikes on anaesthetized sheep showed that lightning first enters the body orifices and then flow along the blood vessels and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) pathways.
Since the CSF pathway narrows near the brainstem, this part is hit hardest, resulting in cardiac and respiratory arrest. Since the heart can restart itself because of autonomous control, fatality usually results from respiratory failure. (1) This shows the importance of mouth-to-mouth resuscitation for lightning victims. 6 I almost witnessed someone being struck by lightning, but luckily they were not. It was during a soccer tournament that I was …