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When Lightning Strikes

michael posted more than 10 years ago | from the all-hail-tesla dept.

Science 285

ctwxman writes "For most of the United States (sorry West Coast), this is the season for lightning. It is as powerful as it is spectacular to look at. It is destructive too - by itelf or through the hail, straight line winds and tornadoes that often accompany it. As someone who forecasts the weather, I'm often asked about lightning. As you might imagine, there's plenty to see about lightning on the Internet. The conditions necessary and a little bit of the physics behind lightning are explained by Jeff Haby, a meteorologist (one of my professors actually) at Mississippi State University. Once forecasters get a handle on what's going on, they put the word out through the Storm Prediction Center. Regular outlooks are issued by SPC for severe storms. Once those storms rear their ugly heads, they're followed with mesoscale discussions looking at the active areas. The Storm Prediction Center is also the place where Severe Thunderstorm and Tornado Watches are issued and storm related damage reports are compiled. Lots of hobbyists like to track lightning strikes on their own, and there's equipment available to do just that. Getting hit by lightning is never fun, though not always fatal. National Geographic chronicled an amazing story of a lightning strike, and rescue, on Grand Teton."

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Why? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9404476)

Why post this garbage, which is neither "news" nor anything that "matters" (i.e., worshipping Apple, Linus Turdvals, or bashing Micro$loth)

I'm curious about ball lightning... (1)

StarKruzr (74642) | more than 10 years ago | (#9404874)

... but the article doesn't mention anything about it. Does anyone know if there have been serious, repeatable scientific conclusions drawn about it (i.e., effects upon contact, genesis, etc.)? Google is somewhat less than helpful.

NLDN (5, Informative)

David M. Andersen (711958) | more than 10 years ago | (#9404484)

For a bit of fun, you can check out the National Lightning Detection Network [] , which shows recent lightning strikes in the USA over the last few hours.

Re:NLDN (1)

j_presper_eckert (617907) | more than 10 years ago | (#9404520)

1.21's not just a good idea - it's the law.

Re:NLDN (5, Interesting)

chimpo13 (471212) | more than 10 years ago | (#9404593)

For even more fun, don't forget about the Jesus actor in the Passion of Christ being struck by lightning during the filming. [] The assistant director was hit twice. Probably a pissed off God -- mad that it's supposed to be realistic, what with the Aramaic and all, but Mel Gibson used a white Jesus.

And then there's Roy Sullivan. A quick google [] turned this up:

Roy Cleveland Sullivan was a Forest Ranger in Virginia who had an incredible attraction to lightning... or rather it had an attraction to him. Over his 36-year career as a ranger, Sullivan was struck by lightning seven times - and survived each jolt, but not unscathed. When struck for the first time in 1942, he suffered the loss of a nail on his big toe. Twenty-seven years passed before he was struck again, this time by a bolt that singed his eyebrows off. The next year, in 1970, another strike burned Sullivan's left shoulder. Now it looked as though lightning had it out for poor Roy, and people were starting to call him The Human Lightning Rod. He didn't disappoint them. Lightning zapped him again in 1972, setting his hair on fire and convincing him to keep a container of water in his car, just in case. The water came in handy in 1973 when, seemly just to taunt Sullivan, a low-hanging cloud shot a bolt of lightning at his head, blasting him out of his car, setting his hair on fire and knocking off a shoe. The sixth strike in 1976 injured his ankle, and the seventh strike in 1977, got him when he was fishing, and put him in the hospital for treatment of chest and stomach burns. Lightning may not have been able to kill Roy Sullivan, but perhaps the threat of it did. He took his own life in 1983. Two of his lightning-singed ranger hats are on display at Guinness World Exhibit Halls.

Re:NLDN (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9404763)

White Jesus? Jesus was a Jew, wasn't He?

Re:NLDN (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9404790)

Re Mr. Cleveland. Damn, he must have done it on purpose. You know, hung out in the wrong spots on purpose. Either that, or the whole thing is urban legend.

The thing about it blasting him out of his car doesn't make any sense. A vehicle is a wonderful faraday cage. I've known of many people that have had their cars or airplanes struck by lightning. Not one of them was injured in any way.

Re:NLDN (1)

seinman (463076) | more than 10 years ago | (#9404882)

If you're touching something conductive inside the car when the strike occurs, then there's a chance you'll get fried. If you're just sittin' there driving along with both hands on the wheel, you should be fine. Or so i've been told.

Re:NLDN (1)

asdfghjklqwertyuiop (649296) | more than 10 years ago | (#9404893)

Why would that make a difference? The whole car is insulated from the ground by the rubber tires. If the lightning will go through the tires it will just as easily go through the vinyl steering wheel and anything else you're in contact with.

Re:NLDN (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9404801)

Can you say "publicity stunt"? God hates them movie makers *rolls eyes*

Re:NLDN (1)

pklinken (773410) | more than 10 years ago | (#9404898)

Yes.. i saw a picture of him showing a bolted had..
He sach mad antenna-man, it an balanse see ?

suck (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9404485)

suck suck!

FP (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9404487)


umm.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9404541)


That would be thunder you idiot!

Re:umm.... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9404560)

Who's the bigger idiot? The idiot, or the idiot who replies to his stupid post?

how now brown cow.... (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9404592)

Who's the bigger idiot? The idiot, or the idiot who replies to his stupid post?

Who's the bigger idiot? The idiot who replies to his stupid post or the idiot who relies to the reply of the idiots stupid post?

i think you're all the same idiot... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9404649)

and you're trying to get a buzz going around your idiotic FP attempt that didn't even work!

the replier inherits the idiocy of the parent..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9404660)

and adds his own idiocy. The idiocy grows across deep levels of inheritance.

When lightning strikes Ha! (0, Offtopic)

twoslice (457793) | more than 10 years ago | (#9404498)

and the Calgary Flames fans start another round of crying....

Sorry west coast? (-1, Flamebait)

Digitus1337 (671442) | more than 10 years ago | (#9404503)

Boo hoo, they don't have power outages in the heat of the day. I'm in south Florida and when the power goes out in the summer people die.

Re:Sorry west coast? (1)

WhiteBandit (185659) | more than 10 years ago | (#9404517)

Evidentially the submitter has never been to the West Coast. We have thunderstorms during this time of the year too (well, usually they occur later in July and August). Of course they probably aren't as bad as what you find over the midwest, but clearly this dude has no clue what he's talking about. :P

Re:Sorry west coast? (1)

Squeamish Ossifrage (3451) | more than 10 years ago | (#9404760)

Hmmm.... The west coast is a big place, and maybe some it has a lot of lightning. My part sure doesn't. I live in Oregon now, and I've seen less lightning here than anywhere else I've ever lived. So maybe the guy's not totally off-base.

Re:Sorry west coast? (1)

enosys (705759) | more than 10 years ago | (#9404525)

California had some pretty serious problems with power a few years ago.

Re:Sorry west coast? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9404559)

Eh? I'm sure if the power goes it in Yuma on the hottest day of the a few people will die. We lose a few hundred border crossers a year here. An the occasional tourists.

For those of you visiting Arizona and planning on going on a hike. 1 liter of water is good for about... oh 20-30 minutes?

Re:Sorry west coast? (2, Insightful)

NanoGator (522640) | more than 10 years ago | (#9404761)

"Boo hoo, they don't have power outages in the heat of the day."

Yes we do, actually. I was in LA a couple of months ago and the heat caused people to run their ACs. Result? Power reserves went really low. When that happens, rolling blackouts have to occur. The only reason the death toll isn't so high is that they are well prepared for it.

Can't say I blame you for being this misinformed, though. After living here for the last 3 months, I'm findnig some of the Californian stereotypes quite amusing. For example, did you know that LA isn't covered in a dark brown haze that looks like the surface in the Matrix?

Re:Sorry west coast? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9404900)

Shutup with the dispelling of the sterotypes, we made those up so more people wouldn't show up.

don't listen to NanoGator people, California sterotypes are all true so stay away; San Francisco is all homosexuals, LA air is toxic, californians are all veggie eating smelly hippies, there's no meat in the whole state so stay in nebraska or texas or whatever god forsaken *cough* I mean lovely place that you live in and don't move to California.

lightning wit (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9404509)

Q: Why did the blonde keep stopping then smile during a
lightning storm?

A: She thought she was getting her picture taken.

Lightning/Tornados or Earthquakes (1, Interesting)

jimmy page (565870) | more than 10 years ago | (#9404511)

Sorry West Coast ....

Umm.. the constant threat of earthquakes is nothing to sneeze at... while not as loud as thunder/lightning it's sure can be a wild ride.

Side effects (3, Interesting)

NIK282000 (737852) | more than 10 years ago | (#9404515)

My physiscs teacher discribed an intresting side effect of a lighting storms.

he was in his pool ans could hear thunder in the distance so he throught he should probably get out, but as the cloud got closer the surface of the pool started to "boil". The huge negative chage in the cloud induced an equal positive charge in the ground underneath it. As this positive charge was attracted to the cloud it made ions in the water making it boil. After pondering that for a minute he jumped ou tof the pool so as not to be killed.

Re:Side effects (2)

scrod98 (609124) | more than 10 years ago | (#9404600)

"...made ions in the water making it boil. "

Oh yeah, community collej must have been great fun.

Did you do cold fusion experiments, too?

Re:Side effects (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9404774)

Oh yeah, community collej must have been great fun.

Jeez man, don't be so hard on him. Remember, there are physics teachers in high school, too, and not all Slashdotters are 26.

Re:Side effects (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9404829)

Urban myth

Re:Side effects (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9404870)

That moderation is +5, it's informative to know just how ignorant some people can be.

better read (5, Informative)

Orodreth (679524) | more than 10 years ago | (#9404521)

The first link is a little scant on details...if you're really interested in lightning I'd recommend this. []

Re:better read (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9404562)

But what about ball lightning? How does ball lightning work? I'm begining to think there is no such thing...

i'm here all night... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9404524)

What did the lightning bolt say to the other lightning bolt?

You're shocking.

Great Headline (4, Funny)

goldmeer (65554) | more than 10 years ago | (#9404528)

The headline is great!
Not really on it's own merits, but I instantly imagined the remarks from when the "story" is posted again in 2 weeks: "When Lightning Strikes Twice"

Re:Great Headline (2, Funny)

SpaceLifeForm (228190) | more than 10 years ago | (#9404759)

Please, you know that the forecasts aren't that accurate. Give it a couple days.

Watching lightening...up close (4, Interesting)

RLiegh (247921) | more than 10 years ago | (#9404529)

I know Im going to get modded down for this; but Ive lived in Wa, Tx, Ak and Az; and out of all of them, its (ironically) been in Az where Ive seen lightening the most intensely (longer duration, and more clearly visible) and also the most closely (within blocks of where I live).

Absolutely breathtaking.

Re:Watching lightening...up close (2, Interesting)

WhiteBandit (185659) | more than 10 years ago | (#9404549)

I know Im going to get modded down for this; but Ive lived in Wa, Tx, Ak and Az; and out of all of them, its (ironically) been in Az where Ive seen lightening the most intensely (longer duration, and more clearly visible) and also the most closely (within blocks of where I live).

Absolutely breathtaking.

I completely agree. We used to spend a lot of time along the Colorado River (Mead and Havasu). You wake up and start with a beautiful, blue clear sky. As the day goes on you can see the clouds forming and growing. By 4 o'clock in the afternoon, the high winds pick up and continue until early in the morning, along with the constant lightening. Definitely an impressive sight.

Re:Watching lightening...up close (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9404604)


Lightening would be used as such:

"I plan on lightening my backpack by throwing away all the books in it that I could potentially use to learn how to spell."


Re:Watching lightening...up close (1)

crasher35 (787091) | more than 10 years ago | (#9404834)

I live in Orlando, the lightning capital of the world (they say), and I'm think I'm going to agree with them on this. Just the other day, I was working at Sea World and lightning struck a few yards away from where I was working, then it struck again on the lake in front of the Nautilus Theater, and then it struck the Sky Tower, and then I ran inside... Lightning is teh scary, but very pretty ^_^! Not so later on, I had to do the trash around the area, so I had to go outside again, and I hear an ambulence siren and my co-worker (Paul, who has been working there much longer than I have) instinctively knew that someone was struck... I proceeded to freak out. Again, lightning is teh scary!

Re:Watching lightening...up close (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9404567)

I know Im going to get modded down for this; but...

Well, if you do get modded down, it was only because of those words. Don't. Bait. Them.

Re:Watching lightening...up close (1)

TribeDoktor (629092) | more than 10 years ago | (#9404591)

I'm moving to Tucson in a few weeks to start gradschool at U of A. I've been there during monsoon season and the afternoon thunderstorms are flat out amazing. The lightning was gorgeous as well as scary. I'm coming from Alabama where tornados often rip up the place and was totally impressed by the power of the storms out there. The desert can be as beautiful as it is deadly... I love it out there.

Re:Watching lightening...up close (2, Informative)

Orodreth (679524) | more than 10 years ago | (#9404598)

Incidentally, University of Arizona is where E. Philip Krider [] works in the Department of Atmospheric Sciences [] - he basically spearheaded the development of lightning detection systems. [] Coincidence? Probably not.

Re:Watching lightening...up close (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9404896)

One summer I interned with the Sheriff's Departement (computer stuff). Once however I got to go out on a call with a deputy after a lightning strike had killed an illegal mexican. I'd never seen anything like it. The dead guy's shoes had been blown off, and he was missing his eyes. His eyes were literally blown out of his head by the force of the strike. I think what happens is that some of the moisture in the body is turned to steam, and that is what exerts the force, not the electricity directly.

Re:Watching lightening...up close (5, Interesting)

Big Bob the Finder (714285) | more than 10 years ago | (#9404621)

Lightning in New Mexico was absolutely spectacular. New Mexico Tech has the Langmuir Lightning Lab, at the top of South Baldy (10,783 foot peak). Charlie Moore and Bernard Vonnegut (brother of author Kurt, now deceased) used to study lightning discharge there.

Until they tore it down in '98 or '99, New Mexico Tech used to have a lightning observatory right in the middle of campus, part of the legacy of E.J. Workman; it was actually an air traffic control tower, with a full 360-degree view. (Workman was an interesting character himself, having been sent down to Socorro from University of New Mexico to work on the "second most important" technological achievement of WWII, the proximity fuze, at what later became the explosives research and test facility at New Mexico Tech).

But, anyway- New Mexico has a very high density of lightning, second only to parts of FL (which has its own lightning research center). From firsthand experience, I can state that the size and duration of the strokes can be extremely powerful; one night I was woken up by a particularly powerful one that set off a number of car alarms. There was no storm with no rain before or after- it was as if one of the explosives bunkers had detonated up on the Hill at EMRTC.

Parts of eastern New Mexico get it even harder. There has to be something about the magnitude of the storms, and maybe the flatness of the land, that forms a particularly large discharge. A good New Mexican frog-strangler is something to behold.

Re:Watching lightening...up close (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9404825)

come to tampa florida

FffiiiiiZZZAP! (4, Funny)

scrod98 (609124) | more than 10 years ago | (#9404536)

As someone who has lost his share of equipment to lightning hits over the years (telephones, one PC, even a CB radio) I love being able to unplug my wireless laptop and feel safe to keep surfing. God bless 802.11b.

No lightning for CA? (5, Funny)

Faust7 (314817) | more than 10 years ago | (#9404548)

For most of the United States (sorry West Coast), this is the season for lightning.

Damn. And I had my cable hanging down from the Hill Valley Clock Tower all ready too.

Re:No lightning for CA? (1)

jeffkjo1 (663413) | more than 10 years ago | (#9404676)

Great Scott!

Thanks for a great laugh!

lightning.. (3, Interesting)

sinner0423 (687266) | more than 10 years ago | (#9404563)

I've never been directly struck by lightning, but I have been "zapped" i guess you can say, by some sort of mild electric shock when a big bolt hit right near my apartment complex.

I ran upstairs to the 3rd floor, to shut a window because it had been raining.. I go to close the window, i'm standing on wet carpet (the whole room is practically soaked) and suddenly BLAM. Big lightning strike, and I got shocked. It almost felt like my whole body was doing a tongue test on those square 9v batteries. Probably the closest i've ever come to being struck.

Has this happened to anyone else? I had previously believed that one could only get struck or zapped by lightning outside of a house.

Re:lightning.. (4, Informative)

dotslashconfig (784719) | more than 10 years ago | (#9404637)

What you probably experienced was the resulting radio waves that are emitted when the charge from a bolt of lightning enters the ground (though you probably only got a mild version of this).

This is why people are discouraged from "seeking shelter" under large trees during a lightning storm. Not only is the taller object more likely to be struck by lightning, but also the radio waves emitted within a 10-15 ft radius can cause you to go into cardiac arrest. Dangerous stuffs if you're too close to the strike point.

Re:lightning.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9404857)

Radio waves?! WTF is this Mr. Rogers lightning tutorial?

More likely eletricity traveled through the ground, into the wet carpet (most likely via water pipes or other conductor), and into the victim. I've had it happen dozens of times. It came into the house via wires from outside. I can hear when lightning hits trees in the backyard because the wires arc to the water pipes (I see the burn marks as well). High voltage travels across wet ground very easily.

Re:lightning.. (2, Interesting)

kc8jhs (746030) | more than 10 years ago | (#9404655)

Although I don't have a link or reference to the article (other than I believe I read it in Reader's Digest), there have been several cases of individuals struck by lightning indoors. One instance that stands out in my mind, was a story of a woman, in a basement who was struck by lightning while washing clothes, and reaching towards a glass block window, where her detergent was sitting.

"Can I get struck by lightning when I'm indoors?" []

NWS Lightning Safety: Indoors []

-Mikey P

Re:lightning.. (1)

rmcd (53236) | more than 10 years ago | (#9404702)

I was in a room level with the back yard when lightning struck a tree perhaps 75 feet away. Several of us in bare feet felt an electric shock. So yes, it has happened to others!

As someone who forecasts the weather... (5, Funny)

cabra771 (197990) | more than 10 years ago | (#9404565)

As someone who forecasts the weather

Sorry, you've lost all credibility right there.

Re:As someone who forecasts the weather... (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9404633)

You need to distinguish between the lusers who do weather on TV and the real weather forcasters who (in the US, anyway) work at the National Weather Service (part of the NOAA). These folks really do know what they are doing, and if you take some time to look at the "forcast discussions" that accompany some of the real NWS forcast products, you'd gain a an appreciation for how hard weather forcasting is for those who do it for real.

Have a look at this [] , for example.

Show me the exit please (1)

loid_void (740416) | more than 10 years ago | (#9404566)

I understand that when lightening enters your body and then abruptly leaves, that you are left with a nasty exit wound.

Re:Show me the exit please (1)

krray (605395) | more than 10 years ago | (#9404622)

I'm not sure of the relationship :), but my fathers cousin was hit and the exit wound was at the knee. It blew/burned the rest of the leg off...

Re:Show me the exit please (1)

krray (605395) | more than 10 years ago | (#9404635)

And then there is my brother. It was more of a glancing blow. He still hides during storms at 40. No exit wound to speak of, but I always say it obviously got stuck in and bounced around his brain.

Re:Show me the exit please (5, Funny)

loid_void (740416) | more than 10 years ago | (#9404720)

If you mention one more relative, this will be an observable pattern worth formal inspection. We know lightning strikes trees, but family trees?

Harnessing the power (1)

kmccoy (786929) | more than 10 years ago | (#9404583)

I wonder if there's anything that could be done to capture the power in lightning. Has anyone seen anything about this? Perhaps some sort of equipment attached to a lightning rod on a tall building?

Re:Harnessing the power (1)

Bombcar (16057) | more than 10 years ago | (#9404617)

Perhaps some sort of equipment attached to a lightning rod on a tall building?

Maybe a Delorean.......

Re:Harnessing the power (5, Interesting)

rco3 (198978) | more than 10 years ago | (#9404764)

It's a nice thought, harnessing the power of lightning. And it's true that there's a really high power output. However, the duration is so short that the total energy, in terms of kilowatt-hours, is typically on the order of US$0.20 - US$0.30 per lightning flash.

When we in the University of Florida lightning research group [] trigger a lightning flash, we use a $500 rocket to get that US$0.30 worth of electricity. This alone makes the whole process very cost-ineffective. Add to this the fact that there is not a good way to store that much energy that quickly, and you quickly realize that it's simply not practical to try to store lightning energy.

I'll be glad to share more information, if anyone's interested.

Re:Harnessing the power (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9404868)

ya, not a whole lot of power in a lightning strike. Lots of voltage, not much current (relatively speaking).

Re:Harnessing the power (2)

fbjon (692006) | more than 10 years ago | (#9404830)

"When the Phantom moves, lightning stands still."
-Old jungle saying [] -

So all that is needed is:

1. Hire Phantom []
2. Wait for lightning to strike charging equipment
3. Make Phantom move indefinitely
4. ???
5. Profit!

Can't we save the energy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9404588)

Why can't we capture lightning and store the energy in giant capacitors or something?

Yes, I have no idea what I'm talking about.

NMT LMS (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9404597)

Don't forget the New Mexico Tech Lightning Mapping System. Here's the link

It has some pretty neat images of their lightning mappings. You can see the lightning in 3D, and the precursors to lightning, etc.

Not much info, but there's been some really neat research going on out there. Maybe someone else knows more.

Something smells like aluminum... (3, Interesting)

AcidPhish (785961) | more than 10 years ago | (#9404599)

I think this will be the season for antennae and wireless shops around the US. With the growing WAN's around the place, and the endless similarity between a lightning rod and those antennae... Ouch!

Fun to watch but expensive to reproduce...

Re:Something smells like aluminum... (2, Interesting)

TheHawke (237817) | more than 10 years ago | (#9404823)

Yeah, i'll vouch for the concern about wLAN and their gear being protected. I did installs for a wireless operation down here in south Texas where the storms REALLY get intense. SO what we do is ground the mast itself and isolate the computer and electronics by using isolation tranformers and UPCs to isolate the systems from strikes so that if a strike does occurr, it will damage the protection gear and not the acutal systems.

YDI had built a all-in-one antenna that had the Ethernet gear and transcever all built into the antenna that gave me such concern that i had to make direct contact with the manufacture to see what sort of lightning suppression was available. So to my surprise and distress, he admitted that they had managed to get just into production a suppressor for the antenna unit. And this was for a unit that had been in production for over 2 years!
Well, with that said, i simply nodded and used the time-tested method of instructing the clients to unplug whenever mum nature got ugly, or was planning to.

So what? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9404612)

Slashdot: Random articles. Stuff that may or may not matter.

Yeah, so it's lightning season. What's so news-worthy about that? It happens every year. Why is it on the front page of Slashdot?

I can see it now. Tomorrow's headline: When Rain Falls.

when lightining strikes (1)

c4thy (224077) | more than 10 years ago | (#9404616)

it creates ozone.

Info on thunder and lightning (1)

ikluft (1284) | more than 10 years ago | (#9404634)

I posted some links and info at [] after getting pestered by enough kids trying to do research for school work who kept writing to the webmaster address for this domain.

Unpredictable (4, Interesting)

digital_milo (212475) | more than 10 years ago | (#9404636)

My wife's best friend was killed by lightning in Houston in 2001. A storm had passed though about a half hour before and it appeard to be clearing. She went into the front yard to do some weeding in a flower bed beside the driveway. Her house was in the middle of a bunch of very large pines. They probably had 2 dozen 75-100' pine trees throughout the yard and the entire lot was under the canopy. Not to mention that there were 2 aluminum light poles within 25 yards of where she was struck. Examining the damage afterwards, a tree was struck. The lightning travelled along the tree for about 15 feet and then must have travelled through the air, through her body and into the rebar in the driveway (or reverse that since lightning supposedly travels up). A neighbor began cpr within 2 minutes and they had her to a hospital within 15-20 minutes. They got her heart working again eventually, but never any brain activity. I kinda like to think that she died immediatly. From what I was told, there wasn't any visible damage to her body except for some blood from her nose and mouth (that was third hand since the neighbor wouldn't talk about it).

Re:Unpredictable (2, Interesting)

NanoGator (522640) | more than 10 years ago | (#9404746)

"My wife's best friend was killed by lightning in Houston in 2001."

Ugh. You know how they talk about how games desensitize people? I've been playing Unreal Tournament 04 way too much over the last week. One of the weapons that I've grown to love is the Lightning gun. It fires a bolt of lightning and *zaap*. I love sniping with it.

Despite really enjoying zapping people with this game, reading that somebody you know (or your wife knows...) died with it really made my heart sink.

I hope I'm not being disrespectful. That's not the intent... I just noticed... Ya know?

Re:Unpredictable (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9404780)

or reverse that since lightning supposedly travels up

IIRC, the lightning channel opens from both sides (cloud and ground), the current can flow upward or downward. So, I guess that both answers are correct. But in unfortunate events like these accidents, this detail doesn't matter.

Re:Unpredictable (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9404792)

Perhaps someone can speak to the old wives tale that says pine trees are particularly likely to get struck by lighting.

Best job in the world... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9404688) being a weather guesser. Thursday night the weather weenies were saying how sunny and warm and nice it would be today. The high was 62, and we got 2 inches of rain. No weather forecasters were fired. They're never fired, no matter how often they're wrong. Hell, they never get so much as a day off without pay for screwing up royally. So kids - study meteorology and broadcasting in college if you want to make the big bucks and have job security.

Misc... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9404690)

I spent a lot of time in the Rockies during Summers of my youth. We were taught that if the hair stood up on any part of our body, ditch the backpack and dive flat. I saw a guy who had three quarters and a pocketknife end up with an entry point of some metal slag who was caught by surprise.

Also, there are different types of lightning & static activity - Tesla seemed to be the master during his lifetime. One of the most baffling types of static|lightning activity is ball lighting. There have been stories for a long, long time beyond FOAF|UL describing a small globe of what appears to be lightning in an orb, having appeared out of nowhere, moving about without a pattern, then disappearing as mysteriously. IIRC, most of the reports involve aircraft. Tesla demonstrated great prowess in creating them, controlling them, and destroying them, to the bewilderment of all. And for all who thought he was a crackpot while he was alive (including the gov't), why did they pack up all of his belongings when he died and send them off to parts unknown?

Do Detectors Work? (3, Funny)

buckhead_buddy (186384) | more than 10 years ago | (#9404694)

I live next to a golf course with a lightning detector to warn golfers of electrical activity in the vicinity. I'm not trying to paint all such products with the same brush, but the detector only seems to trigger the warning sirens just after a thunderclap so I've been somewhat skeptical of the utility of these devices.

Still the noise from the detector is better than golf balls hitting my roof so anything that gets people off the course and give me peace is welcome.

Re:Do Detectors Work? (1)

loid_void (740416) | more than 10 years ago | (#9404755)

The best detector for golfers is that when they here the rumble, the crack is not far away. We use this for kids baseball all the time. It's called the thunderstorm rule. Works great. Game is always called.

Weather (2, Interesting)

Axel2001 (179987) | more than 10 years ago | (#9404695)

I am a weather spotter for the national weather service and I have seen some interesting storms here in VA... We once had a storm so intense that the sky was dark enough around 2:00pm that you could see stars in the breaks of the clouds and the moon was "shining." That was freaky - apparently, that storm spawned a "small" tornado that threw individual blades of grass through a telephone pole. In 1985, the southern part of the state, where I am originally from, experienced the "Flood of 85." The Roanoke river crested at a record 23 feet... tons of damage was done, but some amazing stories, like that of an aging Labrador retriever in Eagle Rock that pulled its master to safety out of the rolling waters of Craig Creek, came out of it... Here [] is a photo of the Roanoke stadium.

Re:Weather (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9404708)

you fucking cunt, i hope you drownd

Re:Weather (1)

Axel2001 (179987) | more than 10 years ago | (#9404733)

Yeah, um, wtf? I'm glad to see the quality readers we have on this site.

Grand Teton huh? Really... (1)

Eddy Da KillaBee (727499) | more than 10 years ago | (#9404699)

National Geographic chronicled an amazing story of a lightning strike, and rescue, on Grand Teton.
In Spanish, Teton (or Tetona) is slang for tit. Does this mean Nation Geographic covered someone's rescue on a boob? Did a geek pass out after touching one? ;)

Free MP3s for download! (-1, Offtopic)

Robber Baron (112304) | more than 10 years ago | (#9404700)

On JACK FM this morning they mentioned that tonight at 9pm (PST) FutureShop via this link [] will be allowing the first several (hundred?) thousand MP3 downloads for FREE. (thereafter they will charge $1 per MP3)

yeah I'm probably going to burn karma for posting this, but what the hell...

oh let me count the lightning stories... (5, Interesting)

v1 (525388) | more than 10 years ago | (#9404710)

A guy I know put an antenna up in a pine tree, about 70 feet, without a ground wire. Needless to say it got nailed, about 2am while he slept. Detonated the antenna, peeling it into 2ft long, thin strips of fiberglass. Boiled his coax, all the way into his house. Electrofried his radio, and set its power cord on fire. (under his bed, where he was sleeping, setting the carpet on fire) Blew the outlet off the wall. Got into the breaker box and destroyed several breakers, two microwaves, and three color TVs. Finally found ground via the phone entrance box on the outside of the house, which was blown off the house. This was the SECOND time he had been hit, the previous time was the same exact scenario, just not as damaging.

A guy down the block got his ham radio antenna hit, blowing the base of the antenna to pieces. (severing the ground connection in the process, unfortunately) The lightning then took out his coax like det cord, which was laid down under one layer of shingles. This shot the shingles that were laid over the coax right off the house. It then took out his radio, followed the power cord into the electrical system in his house, took out all the appliances in his kitchen, and then went underground to his garage and took out three marine radios that were on charge at the time.

A friend and former co-worker had an employee of his arrive late to work. When asked of the excuse, he said he got his truck struck by lightning on the way in. And boy did he. They never found any of the whip antenna. The base of it, solid brass, was melted like ice cream. Blew out the back sliding windows where the coax came into the cab. Blew the radio to pieces. Finally found ground via front left quarterpanel, which was permanently bowed inward from the sudden heating.

I worked on someone's computer recently, they had pictures on their desktop of a relative's car that was struck while going down the highway. It hit the rear mounted stereo antenna, arced into the body of the car, (creating a 1/2" hole in the metal near the antenna mount) and found ground via ALL FOUR TIRES, arcing across the wheel wells and apparently through the steel belts, flattening all four tires in the process. It also blew out the rear window from the concussion.

My car was struck by lightning while on the road too. Took out the headlights and the windshield wipers, which then started working normally a few hours later. (probably tripped the breakers that those items usually are on instead of fuses)

I have a large ham radio antenna at my house as well, which has been struck at least three times so far, you can count the char marks on it. Thanks goes to a 1/4" solid aluminum ground wire and a 10ft copper water pipe for a ground rod, the lightning has never even scratched my radio, which remains plugged in and cabled up 24/7.

Lastly, if you're ever on a beach and run into a patch of what appears like a cross between pavement and sand, that's where lightning has struck the beach and melted the sand into glass. Really weird effect...

Watching thuderstorms in the midwest... (1)

Lodragandraoidh (639696) | more than 10 years ago | (#9404716)

My wife likes to go outside on the porch and watch lightening storms. I live in Texas - so the storms can get pretty intense.

I prefer to stay inside, and not present a path to ground (or more accurately a path from ground) for the random bolts.

Numerical Weather Prediction and others (3, Insightful)

thedogcow (694111) | more than 10 years ago | (#9404727)

As someone who is finishing his BS in Meteorology from a reputable university that teaches meteorology (Univ of Oklahoma), I am really sick and tired of people not giving credit to meteorologists. First, I want to set some facts out:

1) People on TV usually do not have a BS in meteorology. They are usually journalists, hence, they have not taken the required math and physics that one needs in order to understand that air behaves like a fluid in a nonlinear fashion. Please take the time to distinguish between people that have science degrees and people who do not.

2) Weather Prediction. For anyone that complains about how meteorologists cannot predict the weather, I would like to see you apply your skills of solving Partial Differential Equations that are extremely complicated in a Lagrangian reference frame. Numerical weather models have to approximate solutions to the complicated PDEs and even have to reduce important terms (Scale Analysis) that, of course, play a significant role in the long term.

3) The Storm Prediction Center is located in Norman, OK. As an undergraduate... I love to learn about the vertical tilting and stretching of a baroclinically induced horizontal vorticity zone... i.e.. Tornadogenesis. SPC saves lives and employees people that have masters in meteorology. They are highly qualified and are not the usual crapfest that you see on The Weather Channel or local news stations.


Re:Numerical Weather Prediction and others (0, Flamebait)

Zebbers (134389) | more than 10 years ago | (#9404794)

your BS in meteorology
back to you Susan!

Re:Numerical Weather Prediction and others (1)

thedogcow (694111) | more than 10 years ago | (#9404820)

Yeah, Bachelors in Science. That was fairly implicit.

just a few weeks ago (4, Interesting)

jjeffries (17675) | more than 10 years ago | (#9404771)

I was at work when a huge thunderstorm rolled in. The wind kicked up and the building my office is in started creaking, the wind whistling over it. The rain started next, coming down almost horizontally.

There was a flash very big boom, during which a piece of electrical equipment up the street turned into sparks. A moment later, the sky lit up again, this time not white, but blue.

My office is on the forth floor in a not very big town, so I have pretty good view of a lot of it, and it was lit up as bright as the brightest of sunny days. But blue.

I believe I saw a flashover [] , which occurs when lightning hits something electrical, and the electricty within, which had previously been happy doing its thing, jumps out and follows the lightning bolt's path. This can continue for several seconds after the lightning has stopped.

My girlfriend was there to see this too--in fact, she dropped to her knees and said "that's the scariest thing I've ever seen." And I agree. Lightning is fascinating stuff, and terrifying.

But... but... (1)

PsiPsiStar (95676) | more than 10 years ago | (#9404783)

Getting hit by lightning is never fun ... what if you're flying a kite when it happens?

Seriously, though... slow news day? This is the type of stuff they run in the papers when noone's found an interesting way to bleed in the past week, or a bad reason to sue some wealthy corporation.

Weather spotting by Chaos Theory (5, Funny)

michaeldot (751590) | more than 10 years ago | (#9404809)

I'm in Sydney, Australia and I just saw a butterfly flapping its wings. Someone on the other side of the world is about to get a tornado on their doorstep.

Anyone know of a homebrew lightning detector? (1)

NoMoreNicksLeft (516230) | more than 10 years ago | (#9404822)

Anything that costs more than $20 tends to get crossed out on the list of cool toys. I've been thinking of building some other weather/geo sensors (even a seismograph) and logging stuff just for the heck of it.

Speaking of which, is there any way to detect cosmic rays without a university dept backing me up? The things are so rare, that I'd never know it wasn't working....

Lightning hit my radio antenna (1)

Sarojin (446404) | more than 10 years ago | (#9404837)

Yes, the l0de radio hour -- (shoutcast) radio for trolls, is commencing in 42 minutes! Join #LRH on EFNet, or #GNAA on for details.

Walter De Maria: Lightning Field (2, Interesting)

TribeDoktor (629092) | more than 10 years ago | (#9404844)

If you ever get a chance to travel around in the southwest, try to stay at the Lightning Field in New Mexico. It is a rustic stay at the cabins there but it is worth staying there overnight. Even without the lightning strikeing the sculpture it is an awesome site. The field is most active during the summer months past July. Support the arts!

Lightning kills cows (2, Interesting)

scaryfish (664305) | more than 10 years ago | (#9404887)

Apparently if lightning strikes near a cow (or any other large quadruped) they can die, simply because the lightning creates enough of a voltage potential in the ground that the difference between their front and hind legs is enough to be lethal.

Humans, on the other hand, don't have as much of a problem, because their feet are so close together.

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