Lightning strikes that do not result in death often result in long-term injuries. Death and Injuries. Obviously, the most serious result of a lightning strike is death. Some victims die of secondary causes including hemorrhages and multiple lesions. Some resuscitated victims suffer a delayed death a few days later due to brain damage. However, many victims survive only to sustain long-term injuries impacting not only their own lives but also the lives of family members. NOAA further explains that some victims become embarrassed when they cannot function normally as before. Not being able to carry on a conversation, work at their previous job, or do activities they used to handle cause these victims to isolate themselves. Family, friends, and co-workers who notice the different survivor may exacerbate the isolation problem by not coming around anymore. Families may even break up. Depression can become a major problem and even suicide may result. Also, alcohol and drugs may become a problem for the victim who doesn't understand what is happening. This is more likely a problem if that person previously used these substances. Consequently, it is very important for family and friends of the survivor to remain supportive although this may be difficult and involves relationship adjustments (NWS). The following list of injuries from the website mindspring.com of The Lightning Strike & Electric Shock Survivors International, Inc., consists of common symptoms of lightning strike and electric shock that survivors may experience.
- Chronic Fatigue
- Long Term Memory Loss
- Short Term Memory Loss
- Severe Headaches
- Loss of Motor Skills
- Cognitive Thinking Impairment
- Radical Personality Changes
- Inability to Sit Long Periods
- Ticks or Uncontrollable Muscular Movement
- Stiffness in Joints
- Abstract or Indefinable Pain
- Anxiety of Panic Attacks
- Sleep Disturbances
- Diminished Sex Drive
(The Lightning Strike & Electric Shock Survivors International, Inc.)
Understand the dangers of lightning. When you hear thunder, you are in lighting strike range. Seek shelter.
Lightning strike casualties can hit close to home. You or your family members are not exempt from lightning disaster. Rev. David Harris, pastor of Mims UMC, shared an experience from his congregation. "Actually, we have a member of our church whose grandson was struck by lightning. He is slowly recovering, and although most of his motor skills have returned, and he is getting good grades, he has had some extensive emotional damage. He is more comfortable playing with elementary age kids than with his teenage peer group. There have been some profound changes in his life" (Harris).
In the following two case studies documented on lightningsafety.com, the National Lightning Safety Institute describes horrific mass human casualties caused by lightning.
Case Study A: "On Saturday, July 10, 1926 a violent thunder and lightning storm struck the Navy Ammunition Depot near Mount Hope, NJ. Three major explosions from millions of pounds of TNT obliterated nearby buildings. Shells landed a mile away. Glass was broken three miles away by the acoustic shock wave. Smoke could be seen in New York, some 40 miles away. Nineteen people died - thirty-eight were wounded. Congress appropriated $2.3 million to rebuild the site in 1927" (NLSI).
Case Study B: "The giant airship Hindenburg, 803 feet long, arrived at Lakehurst NJ on May 6, 1937. The crew dropped two 400-foot-long mooring lines onto the wet sand below. The wet ropes served as conductors, bringing the ground potential gradient up to the ship. A hydrogen leak at Cell 4 or 5, combining with air, was ignited by the brush discharge. Ninety seven passengers and crew perished" (NLSI).
Although these particular disasters did not occur in Florida, they could have. Humans are no match for lightning and must exercise all available caution against a strike.
Lightning does not always strike people. The power of lightning can inflict extensive property damage causing great expense, inconvenience, and threat to life and safety. Three common types of property damage in Florida involve that to boats, land and buildings, and electronic equipment. Boats. Boating is a popular activity in Florida. Remember, being on a boat in a thunderstorm is one of the best places to be if you want to be struck by lightning.
Moreover, if the boat is of the larger vessel kind and hit by lightning, expensive property damage may also ruin the day. Ewen Thomson at The University of Florida's lightning research department gives further insight into these risks. Their boat protection principles caution that trying to save money by not installing a protection system could very well cost much more in boat equipment loss. Reluctance to do so is partly due to a complacent attitude towards the danger of lightning and the fact that protection systems are not required. Perhaps a reminder of the risks would renew interest in a protection system for the expensive yacht. Mr. Thomson states that the risks include:
- possible crew electrocution
- a sinking boat
- destroyed electronics
- exploding bulkheads
- litigation risks if someone is hurt
The report also points out that the danger of a direct strike peaks in the Southeast. Again, Florida wins the most dangerous location award. Another interesting note is that a typical yacht cruiser can expect to be struck at least once in its lifetime (Thomson).
Land and Buildings. In 1998, Florida experienced devastating and widespread wildfires. Drought conditions in the middle of peak thunderstorm season offered up dangerously dry land easily ignitable by the abundant lightning. Many stretches of highway and even parts of Interstate 95 were closed. Evacuations were common. Firefighters were called in from all parts of the country to assist our own force, which was stretched thin. National Guard units were stationed at staging areas to assist in logistics. Many church and civic organizations activated response posts at the staging areas to provide food, drinks, and first aid care. Many churches also opened their doors as feeding centers for the firefighters and other disaster relief volunteers. Surprisingly, even a friend of mine from Texas called asking if the whole state was on fire.
Many homes and businesses were destroyed and damaged from the fires. Many structures barely escaped the flames as firebreaks and chemicals stopped the fires just feet from the structures.
A CNN news report during the peak of the fire disasters of July of 1998, posted on www.cnn.com, reported, "Across Florida, 2,058 fires have erupted since June 1, burning a total of 483,261 acres (755 square miles) and damaging or destroying more than 300 homes and businesses. Forty-four states have sent almost 7,000 firefighters and 3,000 support personnel to Florida to help battle the blazes" (CNN).
The report also furnished these startling facts of the time:
Acreage Burned 483,261
Buildings Affected 301
Damages $276 million
Firefighting Costs $116 million
Equipment. Roger Cox is a retired electrical engineer who often volunteers in disaster response operations. Sharing insight into equipment damage, Roger says, "Lightning effects on electrical and electronic equipment result from surges induced into the AC power lines and not from the result of a direct strike by lightning. This is why so many people use surge suppressers/arresters in front of their computer equipment and the phone lines going into them. All emergency communications equipment should have protection devices on the AC power lines and on the phone lines if they are in a base station. Radio antennas may also need protection devices. Mobile equipment is isolated from the AC power lines so that would not be required. Any computer equipment in base stations needed for the disaster response should also be protected" (Cox).