Lightning – A Motorcycle Rider’s Guide To Storm Safety

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By: Pete Crusoe

Think those rubber tires on your bike are going to protect you from a lightning strike? Better think again!

The common belief that motorcycle tires will keep you safe from lightning is just not true. This misconception isn’t confined to bikers. Automobile drivers often believe it’s their rubber tires protecting them from lightning strikes. In fact, automobile drivers are kept safe by the steel cage that encompasses them. The vehicle’s metal frame allows the lightning to find a path to ground around the car. Here’s the facts:

While rubber is a good insulator, there’s just not enough of it there to provide resistance to the voltage and current produced by lightning, which can exceed 300 million volts and 30,000 amps.

This is an incredible amount of current! To put this into perspective, the average household circuit breaker is 15 amps and less than 100 milliamps (1/10 amp) can push a human heart into fibrillation.

The incredible energy contained in lightning is equivalent to a 1-kiloton explosion. The damage created by the heat and energy contained is often substantial. In 2006, a Colorado motorcyclist was killed by lightning and the resulting strike left a crater in the asphalt about 18 inches long, eight inches wide, and four inches deep.

Still, the notion of being struck by lightning seems so remote that most motorcyclists don’t give it much thought unless the storm they are in produces lightning strikes that are close by. In fact, it’s not uncommon for lightning to strike 10 miles away, and sometimes up to 30 miles away from the electrical storm.

The odds of you being hit by lightning in your lifetime are better than you might think. According to new data, if you live to be 80 years old, your lifetime odds of being hit by lightning are 1 in 3000.

Lightning Map

Above: Data from space-based optical sensors reveal the uneven distribution of worldwide lightning strikes. Units: flashes/km2/yr. Image credit: NSSTC Lightning Team.

Obviously, your individual odds will vary significantly depending on the area you live and level of risk you take. However, during any electrical storm, precautions must be taken or you will certainly increase your odds of being hit.

So, when storms pop up and the decision has to be made whether to trudge on or seek shelter keep the 30-30 rule in mind:

* If the time between lightning and thunder is 30 seconds or less, seek shelter.
* Wait at least 30 minutes after hearing the last thunder before leaving the shelter.

Of course, your best shelter is a hard covered and grounded structure and you should know by now that trees are a poor choice and, in fact, account for one in four lightning causalities. In addition, open fields are the number one risk an account for about ½ of the deaths caused by lightning.

No matter what – if you get caught outdoors during an electrical storm, and there is no shelter close by, you should follow these tips National Weather Service – Lightning Safety

Oh, and by the way – lightning can, and often does, strike the same place twice!

Want to see where lightning has struck during the last 2 hours? Visit Vaisala’s Lightning Map

Article Sources:

Lightning Facts From The National Weather Service (PDF)
National Lightning Safety Institute
NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory
ESD Journal

1 comment:

  1. Atención a los padecimientos del Varón (Trackback), 25. August 2011, 20:35

    Disfunción Eréctil…

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