Sunday 4 July 2010

Dunder und Blixem, it's a thunderstorm!

Dave Brewin in Marblehead, Massachusetts, posted a couple of really nice pictures of the late afternoon sun on the Roughstuffrowing forum recently. What the picture doesn't show is the thunderstorm that was on its way, as Dave relates:

Yesterday saw some record temperatures here in Eastern MA - well into the 90's. The good news was a back door cold front moved in from Canada and the heat started to leave. Perfect evening for a row, I thought, and Mother Nature obliged with some great cloud formations and a beautiful sunset.
What the pictures don't show, because the camera was back in the water tight box and I was rowing for all I was worth, is the thunderstorm cell that moved in 5 minutes later. I was only a half mile off the beach at the time so made it back safely, if a little wet. Watching a lightning bolt hit the water a half mile off the stern is a reminder that heat waves in New England are always ended with THUNDER AND LIGHTNING!

I've always wondered about lightning at sea. Clearly it happens, but how dangerous is it? According to the US National Oceanic and Atmospherice Administration fatalities are rare but if you are caught out in a thunderstorm, an open boat such as a rowing boat or canoe is one of the worst places you can be. This is from the NOOA website:
The vast majority of lightning injuries and deaths on boats occur on small boats with NO cabin. It is crucial to listen to the weather when you are boating. If thunderstorms are forecast, don't go out. If you are out on the water and skies are threatening, get back to land and find a safe building or safe vehicle.
Boats with cabins offer a safer, but not perfect, environment. Safety is increased further if the boat has a properly installed lightning protection system. If you are inside the cabin, stay away from metal and all electrical components. STAY OFF THE RADIO UNLESS IT IS AN EMERGENCY!
If you are caught in a thunderstorm on a small boat, drop anchor and get as low as possible.  Large boats with cabins, especially those with lightning protection systems properly installed, or metal marine vessels are relatively safe. Remember to stay inside the cabin and away from any metal surfaces.
As far as I can see, the only thing you can do to increase the risk of being struck is to put out your fishing rod while getting on the radio. Dave clearly did exactly the right thing: row for land.


Peter said...

That's a beautiful picture. Glad that you made it back unharmed.

Anonymous said...

One time you should go out in a thunderstorm. To get people out of stake boats.