Lightning Safety Awareness Week to focus on sports and recreation safety
by National Weather Service
June 15, 2008
Spectators at last year’s University of Wyoming Homecoming football game will not soon forget the lightning and cold rain that forced a stoppage in play for nearly two hours. Referees halted the game as lightning approached War Memorial Stadium, prompting most fans to head for shelter.
Statewide organizers of Lightning Safety Awareness Week, June 22-28, 2008, are asking that organizers of sports programs across Wyoming do the same this summer and “Play it Safe” when lightning approaches.
NOAA’s National Weather Service offices in Riverton and Cheyenne have teamed with Powder River Coal, LLC and University of Wyoming Athletics to heighten awareness of the dangers posed to athletes and spectators by lightning. The partners have created a safety brochure and poster to be distributed statewide this summer. Materials will also be made available on the Internet for download.
“Recreation departments and school districts need to develop lightning safety plans to ensure the safety of both the athlete and spectator,” said Chad Hahn, Lead Forecaster at the Cheyenne National Weather Service Forecast Office. “The safety plan should designate an individual to serve as a weather monitor. When thunder is heard, the game should be suspended and people should immediately move to a safe shelter,” Hahn added.
Chris Jones, Warning Coordination Meteorologist at the Riverton NWS office added that dugouts and golf carts do not serve as safe shelter. “Lightning recently struck a scorekeeper’s tower at the ball fields in Riverton. The tower and dugouts do not serve as adequate protection from lightning. Moving into an enclosed shelter, such as a building or hardtop automobile, should occur as soon as thunder is heard,” he said.
Lightning is responsible for more deaths and injuries across Wyoming each year than any other thunderstorm phenomena. In fact, the casualty rate is higher in Wyoming than anywhere else in the nation. Lightning casualties are most likely to occur during the summer months and in open areas, such as golf courses, playing fields, and in mountainous terrain. Since 1995, all lightning-related deaths in Wyoming have occurred in the Teton, Wind River, Medicine Bow, and Snowy ranges.
NOAA’s Lightning Safety
NOAA’s National Weather Service – Riverton