Author Topic: Storm and Storm Chasing Safety  (Read 27805 times)

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Offline Mike

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Re: Storm and Storm Chasing Safety
« Reply #30 on: 16 September 2010, 08:43:19 PM »
Most of us stand out in the field taking lightning shots..it's something that we enjoy even though it's a risk!  I've been doing some studying on lightning physics and the like for my research and I tell you what, if you have read the data and articles I have on lightning there's no way you'd stand out in the open again!  I've just finished reading a book titled 'The lightning flash', an electrical engineers series book dedicated to the mathematical and physics of lightning...strewth...it's put me off standing out in the open for good I think!

When the doco team were here with me filming as soon as they saw a strike from a storm 10km away they high tailed it back into their car and given they had extensively filmed and chatted to lightning experts in the US prior I was pondering what all the fuss was about! Part of storm chasing is being out in the elements, but there are risks involved and one of the biggest dangers is lightning.  It never actually dawned on me how highly dangerous it is given the 4 times I've almost been frazzled by close strikes (one less than 25 metres from me) and thought nothing of it and simply casually entered the car!  But from what I have been researching on how lightning actually works, it's physics and iniitation I have come to the somewhat regretable decision that me standing out in the open is quite honestly NOT the thing to do once you hear thunder!  The way the lightning actually works is phenominal - so complex and unpredictable that there is no way you can avoid being struck if the perameters are right!

I thought that it was a simple thing of collision and charge...not so...the amount of leaders, both step, dart and progressive is incredible in a millisecond of electrification. So I guess the safety aspect here in short is...if you're enjoying the thunder and big bolts close at hand I would highly recommend that you absoultely do not continue to stand out in the open!  Never, ever be under the anvil when taking photographs - it's the most dangerous region of a thunderstorm because most of the positive charge in the storm is concentrated there and that's why those 'bolts from the blue'occur during dissipation stage.  But commonsense will probably be thrown out the window given the adrenalin rush this part of chasing has...but this is just a reminder that you cannot see what is happening during the stages of lightning initiation, there's a multitude of things happening around you - yes, around you - you are a conductive source and if the positive leader is going to be initiated from ground - your head is the first thing that will create a connection!

Stay safe all !!
Darwin, Northern Territory.
StormscapesDarwin.com
Lightning Research 2010/14

Offline Paul D

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Re: Storm and Storm Chasing Safety
« Reply #31 on: 17 September 2010, 06:52:26 AM »
As Mike has pointed out there are a number of good reasons for thinking twice about standing out in the open when a storm is close by, as is often the case a number of these reasons aren't particularly obvious when charged up on chase adrenalin.
My reasoning for not standing out in the open when during storms probably comes from having been out in the open during storms too many times whilst not being charged up on chase adrenalin...
The logic behind my reasoning can be explained by thinking of some simple stats
Lets say the overall chance of being physically struck by lightning in Australia each year is 1 in a million
If you are not near a storm i.e. further than 15km from a storm, or you are in a building, taking appropriate shelter in an enclosed metal cage (car) chance of being physically struck - nil
If you are outdoors near but still at a distance say >5km from a storm, chance of being struck - extremely unlikely.
If you are outdoors under the anvil / just starting to get the first drops or rain from a highly charged electrical storm - most people would recognise "you are in danger" - even if it is still say a 1 in a thousand chance of being directly hit.
On that basis - stand out in the open under the anvil of an electrical storm a thousand times, chance of being directly hit- 1 in 1, almost certain..

Logic:- the more you undertake a risk the more likely it is the outcome will occur..

Remember the total number of people who get hit by lightning is a lot higher than the number killed (the ones you tend to here about) "Australia has app 5-10 deaths and 45 serious injuries per year as a result of lightning strikes" - http://www.lrc.com.au/doc/LightningSafetyRecommendations.pdf
(although data from the 1990's showed a decrease to only 23 fatalities with a mortality rate of 10% of lightning strike recipients, for that 10 year period - http://www.mja.com.au/public/issues/177_01_010702/mak10009_fm.html )

The following is a few more ideas and reasoning that you can do some more research on before you let the chase adrenalin out way your rational thinking on your next chase. 

If you are out in the open during a storm being in the vicinity of (but not near / right next to or under in the case of trees) tall objects, preferably metal, can (but see below for potential difference from close strikes) offer a radius "cone" of "increased" protection depending on height of up to app 30m from the object, whilst that "cone of protection" is not failsafe - lightning may still hit you rather than the tall object, it apparently does decrease the chances of being hit. I guess one analogy would be how many people get struck in cities where there is a likely greater number of people outdoors but a lot more tall objects. As opposed to say golfers out on an open golfing green.

If you have no other option but to remain in the open, reduce your height, squat low with your feet together. (Do not lie down)
Why feet together.. if lightning does strike nearby lets say within 10m and you are out in the open on a grass surface for arguments sake, if you are standing side on to the strike, you will have a large potential difference in voltage between one leg and the next. If you are standing feet apart, facing the strike or the strike is directly behind you the potential difference between your legs is small or negligible. Likely result.. person standing legs apart side on to the strike dies, person legs apart facing the strike lives.
You do not have to take a direct hit to be killed by lightning. If a person was for instance standing feet wide apart, on wet grass, with bare feet, that would mean a lot less resistance = easier and bigger flow of electricity, danger distance from the strike increases significantly, in this case it may be up to 100m. Hanging on to or being in contact with other objects esp. metal ones i.e. leaning up against a car, or being in contact with a fence just increases the likelihood of a big potential difference between you and the possible strike. (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/southamerica/uruguay/3249895/Fifty-two-cows-are-killed-after-lightning-hits-a-wire-fence.html)
To give an instance of electric shock away from the actual strike, a mate of mine Mick was standing (bare feet)under a carport app 1m closer to the edge of the concrete, app 4-5m back under the carport roof during a wild storm, the rain had blow in under so he was standing on wet concrete I was standing on dry concrete. A lightning bolt struck over 100m away Whilst Mick wasn't standing feet wide apart or side on he still received a mild electric shock whilst I didn't.

If you have a vehicle in most chase cases you will have, you should be safe inside the vehicle as long as you don't touch the frame or any metal objects linked to the frame.
If your car is hit by lightning keep away from it's tires, don't change any blown tires immediately they can re-explode (unless completely shredded) from a detonation of explosive gasses (not pressure build up). Take it easy don't drive like Mark Webber after taking a lightning hit, as your chances of tires blowing out in the period up to 24hrs after the hit has just increased dramatically. Tires are most likely to blow out directly after or in the few minutes following a hit but may take up to 24hrs to blow.

Bit of extra food for thought and reasons to do your photography from inside your vehicle...

Cheers
PD

Offline Mike

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Re: Storm and Storm Chasing Safety
« Reply #32 on: 17 September 2010, 09:07:22 PM »
"f you are not near a storm i.e. further than 15km from a storm, or you are in a building, taking appropriate shelter in an enclosed metal cage (car) chance of being physically struck - nil  If you are outdoors near but still at a distance say >5km from a storm, chance of being struck - extremely unlikely"
not
Darwin, Northern Territory.
StormscapesDarwin.com
Lightning Research 2010/14

Offline Simon McCombe

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Re: Storm and Storm Chasing Safety
« Reply #33 on: 12 December 2010, 08:03:11 AM »
Thanks for the info regarding the chances of being hit,its opened my eyes up. I do vaguely remember hearing of a report a few years ago when a person on a jetski was hit,and the storm was about 50 k's away so apart from them being on the water at that time,how far away are you safe !. Another topic i thought i would share is when setting up for photo shots or chasing and you are parked,either on the side of the road,in a paddock,etc.,avoid parking in long dry grass or stubble from harvested crops that may come in contact with hot parts,particularly your exhaust system,that may ignite and destroy your vehicle. It can happen and i have seen it happen,twice. 

Offline Michael Kelly

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Re: Storm and Storm Chasing Safety
« Reply #34 on: 22 January 2011, 03:30:06 PM »
Could i also add reflective tape on the vehicle would be a wise idea. Decent tape lights up very bright and can be used to define edges of vehicle. Reflective tape on clothing may also be a good idea. Like the road workers use.

Offline Mike

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Re: Storm and Storm Chasing Safety
« Reply #35 on: 11 February 2011, 07:01:33 AM »
There's many things one can do safety wise...the most obvious one is commonsense.  Just be mindful that people have no idea what you are doing on the side of the road during storms or bad weather...some may stop to ask if you're okay (they do here quite often in Darwin's rural area).  I don't beleive in the orange flashing strobe lights and such like they do in the US...I think it's actually illegal to use them in non official business on private cars anyway...could be wrong...but it gives the impression to other drivers that yes, there is caution to be used when approaching, but they were not intended to be used for storm chasers!  No objections to them, just not seen then used in Oz.

Agree with parking in an area away from long grass...def a must - even for the risk of being bitten by snakes and the like!  At least find somewhere that your car and you will be visible from a distance for oncoming traffic.  Not always possible with the vantage points that chasers are looking for, but so long as you car is visible, and at night leave the parking lights on...even better.  Park away from culverts or drains or low lying floodways...just in case of flash flooding from large storms.

A reflective vest is a good way to go, but not very fashionable but everyone has their own likes and whatnot whether to wear one!

Because the eastern states here get a lot more aggressive type storms, make sure you have an exit point from where you are situated with the storm, know the road network in the area, or at least have a map if unsure.  Finally, if you're chasing alone (not advised) at least tell someone where you are likely to be heading and if you intend to move, where you will move with the storm's steering.

A general mature, commonsense approach should be the key. ;p

Darwin, Northern Territory.
StormscapesDarwin.com
Lightning Research 2010/14