Kaboom! When Lightening Strikes In La Paz

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By Carol Dyer

I love thunderstorms.  The flash of lightening followed by the loud clap of thunder – what fun!  I learned to count the seconds between the flash and the rumble to know how close I was to the center of things.  La Paz has seen its share of thunderstorms already this year.  With arrival of the autumn months, we can expect even more if current conditions continue.  Given recent events, it seems an ideal time to pass along what I’ve learned about thunderstorms.

It was a Wednesday afternoon.  Friends and I were enjoying a friendly game of bridge, listening to the rumble, watching the rain, none of us too concerned.  I left the game to admit four newly arrived guests from Denmark.  Given the weather, we decided they should proceed to the shelter of their rooms and take care of the formalities later.  We were all still outside when KABOOM  —  a blinding flash of light, a loud crack, and thunder loud enough to shake the windows.  We all agreed that the lightening had hit something very close, like my house.

As my friends began leaving, we made our way to the front gate where we found a pile of debris.  Bricks, chucks of concrete, roof tiles, bits of tree, and grit littered the walkway where less than 5 minutes before my guests and I were walking.  Thank goodness we were already in the inner courtyard when the lightening hit.  As it turns out, the strike hit my neighbor’s roof, blasting out a corner of it and sending the debris to my walkway/entry.  I was fortunate.  Lightening can kill and it can cause extensive damage.  For me, the loss was minor – a flowerpot hit by falling debris and a fried modem and router.

We all know most of this safety stuff, but how many of us put it into practice?  This seems like a good time to be reminded of what to do in an electrical storm.

  1. Stay in-doors.  DO NOT go up on the roof to watch the show.
  1. If outdoors, get inside as soon as possible.  Inside a stand-alone bathroom, a tent, shed or picnic table are all poor choices.  Inhabited buildings are grounded through their plumbing and electrical systems.
  1. Your car is a far safer place than out in the open.  Stay there.  Keep windows closed and do not touch any medal inside the car.
  1. Seek shelter as soon as you hear the first rumbling, and stay indoors until 30 minutes after the last lightening flash.  If you can detect lightening, it is close enough to strike you.
  1. Count the seconds between flash and thunder and divide by 5.  If the time lapse is 30 seconds or less, seek shelter immediately.  The storm is nearly on top of you.
  1. If outdoors with no immediate shelter and in a group with others, spread out so there is distance between you.
  1. Sit on the ground with your knees pulled up and your head tucked down and your arms around your knees.  Do not lie down as you become a bigger target.
  1. Make sure your important electronics are connected through surge protectors, and turn them off during a storm.  Unplugging electrical equipment is best.
  1. If on or in the water, get to land as soon as possible, and seek shelter.  If this isn’t possible, stay on your boat.  Better there than in the water.

To learn more about how to protect yourself and others, visit www.wikihow.com or similar websites.  There’s plenty of information out there.  You just have to avail yourself of it, and then put it into practice.

Carol Dyer is the owner of Casa Tuscany Inn and a regular contributor to the Baja Citizen.

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