"When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors!" – a catchy phrase adopted by The National Weather Service (NWS) to help remind people of all ages the importance of safety during thunderstorms – is sound advice, but couldn't help a Pennsburg teen last week.
Allison Collins, 19, of Hunter Drive, actually experienced a lightning strike inside her parents' home July 23 around 7 p.m.
Collins, a college student, was working on her laptop which was plugged into an outlet when the thunderstorm developed. Lightning struck nearby and sent an electric current through the home's wiring which delivered a shock to Collins. The strike subsequently prompted a trip to the emergency room at Grand View Hospital.
Collins admits initially she felt no adverse effects of the shock; however, moments later developed cramping, tingling, and numbness in her right leg traveling to her arm. Her heart began to race and she felt short of breath which prompted a trip to Grand View and an overnight stay for monitoring.
She was transferred to Lehigh Valley Hospital and underwent an MRI and CAT scans which revealed slight nerve damage to her leg. The experience has left her feeling very grateful.
"I have a follow-up with a neurologist this week. And I have some bruising on my thigh where the shock occurred but I am very lucky," Collins said.
Amazingly, the computer itself was unscathed.
The occurrence of thunderstorms, or more specifically lightning strikes, increases during the summer months due to warmer temperatures and instability of the atmosphere. There are five different ways to be injured by lightning, and conduction, where lightning travels through wiring or metal surfaces, results in the most indoor lightning fatalities.
Collins' father, Jeff, researched the need for safety precautions during impending thunderstorms. He provided statistical data from www.struckbylightning.org
which revealed in the U.S. this year alone 16 people have been killed and 116, now 117 with Collins' experience, injured by lightning strikes.
The National Weather Service (NWS) website offers a wealth of information regarding safety and education on storms and lightning (www.lightningsafety.noaa.gov
). Thunderstorms and lightning do not discriminate, they can occur quickly and with little warning. The best option is to head indoors at the first rumble of thunder, stay away from windows and electrical wiring as well as plumbing.
If outdoors at the start of a storm, take shelter immediately, avoiding trees. Shelter in a safe building or vehicle is recommended by the NWS as well as waiting 30 minutes after the last sound of thunder is heard before returning to an open area.
One rule of thumb listed on the NWS website is as follows, "The sound of thunder travels about a mile every five seconds. If you count the seconds between the flash of lightning and the crack of thunder and divided by five, you get the number of miles away from you (10 seconds is two miles)."
When in doubt, go indoors and wait out the storm to avoid becoming a part of the statistics.