|Beauty of Nature Can Be Deceiving|
|Library of Articles - Lightning Safety|
“Look how beautiful it is,” said 25 year-old Bethany Lott, watching a thunderstorm approach as she and her fiancé-to-be were atop Max Patch Bald in the Great Smokey Mountains near Asheville, North Carolina. Bethany and Richard Butler were hiking to the peak where he was preparing to put a ring on her finger and propose marriage.
He did not get the chance.
A three bolt lightning strike instantly killed the young Knoxville, Tennessee, woman, and left the 30 year old Butler with third degree burns. He will always recall the last words of Bethany, “Look how beautiful it is.”
Lightning may be one of the most beautiful and awesome forces of nature, it is also one of the most deadly. Although elevations, such as mountains, buildings, antenna, trees, and power lines receive frequent lightning strikes, lightning will also strike flat terrain, such as baseball diamonds, parks, farm fields. Those are all places where a person may be the highest point around, and become a path to the ground for thousands of volts of nature’s deadly electricity.
But even if you are not the highest point around, do not stand near flag or power poles, bleachers, or other objects that may attract a cloud to ground discharge. Animals and humans, who frequently seek cover under trees at the onset of rain, have become casualties when lightning struck the tree.
An old adage that warns, “Beware the oak, it draws the stroke,” refers to the fact that hardwood trees serve as better lightning conductors than softwood trees. And in fact, that was the reason the Ancient Greeks and Romans decorated the heads of their leaders and heroes with laurel leaves, knowing the soft-fibered laurel rarely was hit by lightning.
If you hear thunder or see a storm approaching, it is no time to find your handy tree identification guide. Instead, seek shelter where you will not be hit by lightning, or be near the point of contact with the Earth and become a burn or electrocution victim.
Stay away from open vehicles, metal framed open canopies, or any tall metal object. Seek shelter in a building which is grounded.
If someone is struck by lightning, call 911 and care for the victim immediately. Richard Butler tried to administer CPR for Bethany Lott for 15 minutes, but without success. Because of their elevation in the North Carolina Mountains, his cell telephone unfortunately did not have service.
Heed the motto “If thunder roars, go indoors.” If you see lightning, seek shelter immediately.