Forward to next post: What we can agree about—and what we can’t (and shouldn’t try)
Yesterday it was 100 degrees in Manchester, New Hampshire. So it’s time to remind folks that heat stress (hyperthermia) can kill you.
We’ve talked about Heat Stress before, and I’d like to invite everyone’s attention back to that post and comment thread.
Here’s the short version: Drink water. Even if you’re not thirsty. Eat salty snacks. Then drink some more. Wear a hat. And get out of the hot environment if you’re starting to feel the effects, because by the time you start to feel it, you’re already in heat stress.
We all know about sun screen, and sun block and such.
So, what else shall we talk about? Accompanying hot weather (which can kill you all on its own: old folks in unventilated apartments, kids in cars, and anyone else) you can see other damaging weather. Heat energy in the atmosphere has to go somewhere, and one of the places it can go is into storms.
We just had a storm here in northern New Hampshire that knocked power out for about four hours.
Everyone has their flashlights and candles and wind-up clocks and battery-operated radios and such, right? Know where they are, checked to make sure the batteries are okay? Very good.
Last Sunday there was a lightning strike in Connecticut at a beach that took out five folks (1 dead, 4 injured). That’s a not-unexpected casualty rate: Lightning strikes are around 20% fatal. In a thunderstorm, if you can hear the thunder you are already in range of a ground strike.
Lightning strikes are one of the cases where prolonged CPR is indicated. What do I mean by “prolonged”? Think “hours, if necessary.”
Lightning characteristically creates an interesting fern-like burn pattern on the patient’s skin.
Okay, say you’re outdoors and it gets all thundery. That’s a hint that it’s time to go inside. If a house isn’t convenient, your car is as good if not better. The rubber tires don’t insulate you from ground (there’s enough energy to push a spark through thousands of feet of air — two inches of rubber won’t help), Rather, the metal skin of the car acts like a Faraday Cage and routes the energy around you.
Bad places to be in a thunderstorm: An open boat in the middle of a lake. All by yourself on a golf course. Being the highest thing around no matter where you are.
Under a tree isn’t very good for two reasons: One being that if the tree is struck, the lightning is coming your way. The other being that in high winds (or a lightning strike) a branch can come off the top of the tree and clonk you on the noggin.
No house, no car, what to do? Get into a stand of low brush or saplings half-way up a slope, hunker down, and wait it out. Another good place is in a cave, well back from the cave mouth (provided the silly thing won’t collapse or flood on you). Electricity, after it strikes the ground, sometimes flows downhill. You don’t want to be in the flow path. And since lightning is often accompanied by heavy rain, you don’t want to be in ditches or gullies (or dry washes) in any case. No slope, no brush, just dead-level ground as far as the eye can see? Squat down into a ball with only the soles of your feet touching the ground and with your hands over your ears.
Speaking of that — only flash floods and river floods cause more severe-weather-related deaths than lightning strikes. Moving water has a tremendous amount of energy in it. If a road is flooded with moving water, Do Not Enter. Don’t try to drive through it, even if it looks like it’s only a couple of inches deep. Trying means that you might get to feature in a Reader’s Digest Drama In Real Life (AKA Too Stupid To Live) article. Stay away from flooded streams in general unless you’re personally trained in swift water rescue, or you want to meet some nice gentlemen who are.
If someone nearby is in a stream and you aren’t, don’t try to enter the water to rescue him unless you’re trained to do it. The rule is throw, tow, row, and go. That is — throw a line, extend a stick they can grab onto, get in a boat (and don’t do this unless you know what the flip you’re doing in a boat), and only get in the water after you’ve exhausted those options and if you’re tired of life yourself.
You might invest in a weather radio that sounds alerts if you live where tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, and other such things can be expected. Being somewhere else is the best defense against any number of unpleasant happenings.
So far this has been a nasty year for storms and the season is just beginning.
Okay, kids. That’s it for right now. Heat energy = potential hurt. Stay safe.