University of Newcastle meteorologist Martin Babakhan is warning people to be wary of deadly lightning.
In Australia, lightning accounts for five to 10 deaths and well over 100 injuries annually.
“Australians love the great outdoors and enjoy activities like golfing, fishing and boating – these activities may be a great way to spend the day but when there are lightning storms, they can be deadly,” he said.
“Lightning can also be fatal when you are inside your home. Of the many lightning strike injuries each year, about 80 result from people using fixed telephones during thunderstorms.”
Mr Babakhan said the odds of being struck by lightning varied from person to person and depended on several factors including geographical location and climatology, diurnal and annual climatology and personal lifestyle and hobbies.
“There are no safe places outdoors during a lightning storm, so it is important to get a weather forecast before planning your fishing trip or golf day. If storms are forecasted have a plan of action that you can implement quickly to reduce your chances of being struck.
“If you are inside during a thunderstorm, do not use corded telephones or your computer. If a bolt strikes your house or a nearby power line it can travel into your house through the plumbing or the electrical wiring.”
Lightning is an electrical discharge caused when static electricity builds up between thunderclouds, or between thunderclouds and the ground.
Strikes carry up to 100 million volts of electricity.
Lightning tends to strike higher ground and prominent objects, especially good conductors of electricity such as metal.
A thunderstorm safety fact sheet is below.
For interviews: Martin Babakhan, meteorologist from the University of Newcastle Faculty of Science and Information Technology, on 0418 146 160.
Safety tips for thunderstorms
• Keep away from tall objects, such as trees and telephone poles, and seek shelter in low lying areas.
• Stay away from water – lightning can strike water and the volts can travel.
• Distance yourself from objects that conduct electricity, such as tractors, golf clubs, metal fences and bicycles.
• You are safe in your car during a lightning storm, but do not park underneath trees or powerlines.
• If you are in a level field away from shelter and you feel your hair stand on end, lightning may be about to hit you. Kneel on the ground, with feet together, place your hands on your knees and bend forward. Don’t lie flat.
• If you are out with a group in an open space, spread out and keep people several metres apart.
• Before the storm hits disconnect electrical appliances.
• Don’t handle or use electrical items, especially computers and fixed telephones. Mobile and battery-operated cordless phones are safe to use.
• Keep away from doors, windows, fireplaces and anything that will conduct electricity, such as radiators, stoves, sinks and metal pipes.
• People who have been struck by lightning do not carry an electrical charge and can be handled safely.
• Victims may suffer burns or shock and should receive medical attention immediately.