Lightning - Beware

Katharine Green
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Sunday 5th July was the British Nordic Walking Challenge 2015 in Cardiff. It was held at Cosmeston Country Park and the day started bright and promising. But unfortunately they had to cancel the event two thirds of the way through due to fork lightning. Always a tough decision to stop something when people have travelled and the team have worked so hard to organise the event. British Nordic Walking have a strict policy to never walk in thunder and lightning, it is a no discussion 'stop the event' instant. This is the same day that three walkers were struck by lightning on Pen Y Fan, in the Brecon Beacons, of which very sadly two of the walkers died.

Lightning, is the one instance when Nordic walking is cancelled, having a metal pole with a metal tip at the base is only asking for trouble. We walk all year round come rain or shine, but without a question of doubt we never walk when there is thunder and lightning. Thankfully it is fairly rare to hear of people being struck by lightning, on average about 30-60 people per year, of which perhaps three may die.

Whether walking with or without poles it is very important that we are prepared and know how to act in such instances to reduce the risk of being struck. Lightning can strike up to 10 miles away from the centre of a storm. Count the seconds between seeing the lightning and hearing thunder – if it’s less than 30 seconds, there’s a threat.

If thunderstorms are forecast, postpone or cancel outdoor activities, especially Nordic walking, golf or fishing. If caught in a thunderstorm, stop using umbrellas and metal equipment, stay away from motorbikes, bicycles, wire fences, gates etc If in water return to shore as quickly as possible, water conducts electricity. Move away from wide, open beaches and seek shelter inside a large building or a motor vehicle.

Avoid wide, open spaces or exposed hilltops and don’t shelter beneath tall or isolated trees, if caught in the open, move to the lowest possible ground and drop to your knees, placing your hands on your knees with your head between them. This makes you the smallest possible target and minimizes contact with the ground. Do not lie on the ground as this produces a larger surface area for the electrical currents to travel through. Do not use a mobile phone as the metal directs the current into the body.

If inside a car, stay there with the windows up until the storm passes. If in a house, stay away from the windows and radiators and turn off the television power, lights and the telephone. Only use it in case of an emergency. The BBC Weather Centre advises waiting 30 minutes after the last flash before venturing out, as over half of lightning deaths occur after the storm has passed.

If someone has been hit by lightning, call for help, as they’ll need urgent medical attention. It’s safe to touch them, as people struck by lightning carry no electrical charge that can shock other people. Check for a pulse and for breathing - if you know first aid, begin artificial respiration and CPR if necessary. If they're breathing, check for other possible injuries. Lightning strike victims have burns in two places - where the electric shock entered and then left the body, usually the soles of the feet. They may have broken bones or loss of hearing or sight.

Remember when Nordic Walking in Suffolk to act promptly and keep safe.

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