National Lightning Awareness Week in effect
Jun 27, 2013 (Odessa American - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Just like a flash, National Lightning Awareness Week comes and goes in the blink of an eye.
However, the National Weather Service uses that time to remind people how to stay safe when lightning is present.
"Don't be near any water ... like a lake or a swimming pool," NWS meteorologist Michelle Schuldt said. "Don't be near tall objects like a tree or power pole ... ... and you don't want to be the tallest object."
Lightning Awareness Week started Sunday and is scheduled to end Saturday.
According to the NWS website, seven people have been killed by lightning in the United States -- two in Florida and Illinois; and one each in Louisiana, Missouri and Texas. On average, the NWS reports 55 people are killed annually by lightning and more than 300 are injured.
Schuldt added that the safest place during a thunderstorm isn't a vehicle, but an "enclosed structure away from windows and electrical appliances."
Lightning is formed when a massive electrostatic discharge between charged regions within clouds or between a cloud and the Earth's surface. These regions then equal out through a lightning flash.
Mountainous regions, such as the Fort Davis Mountains, see more thunderstorms than Odessa and Midland because of how the air reacts.
"Storms like to form along the mountains ... because it's where the winds can converge," Schuldt said. "They have nowhere to go but up."
Local officials don't just think about lightning safety during the week; but all year.
City of Odessa Parks and Recreation Director Steve Patton said one of the ways the city prepares for thunderstorms is out on the golf courses.
"We have lightning detectors that will tell us how far the storm is," Patton said. "Once it gets within a couple of miles or looks like it's coming in faster (than predicted), there's an alarm that sounds and everyone is required to come inside."
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