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Lightning

Old 07-24-09, 11:07 AM
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Lightning

So after a months of commuting I finally got caught in a downpour. As many have said here before, not a big deal, my brakes lost a big chunk of their efficiency, that's about it. What did concern me is lightning? Anybody here who got struck by lightning yet? (just kidding...)
Any advice, do you guys stop for a while or is the risk really minimal?
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Old 07-24-09, 11:16 AM
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Originally Posted by JPprivate View Post
So after a months of commuting I finally got caught in a downpour. As many have said here before, not a big deal, my brakes lost a big chunk of their efficiency, that's about it. What did concern me is lightning? Anybody here who got struck by lightning yet? (just kidding...)
i doubt any one would be alive after getting nailed by a lightning....

Any advice, do you guys stop for a while or is the risk really minimal?
i just keep riding and get the hell out of the area ASAP, or go to the nearest bridge and hide until the storm is over.

most thunder/lightning storms are specific to an area, as it requires massive amount of rain clouds to generate those.

so just bike toward any clearer part of the raining area, depending on your luck it can be just a few Km away, or in very rare scenario covering the entire city... very unusual to have such a huge thunder storm, unless you are in a tornado area.

in which case, i'll probably use the bike chain to chain the bike and myself to the nearest bridge instead
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Old 07-24-09, 11:24 AM
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Hiding under an overpass during a storm is fine as long as there aren't any tornadoes. Overpasses tend to act as the neck of a funnel during a tornado, and all matter of very heavy flying debris channels right through them. The truly sucky part of that is hail. You want to be under cover for hail, but if there is hail there is a very good chance for a tornado or at least huge straight line winds. Tornadoes always have hail near them. Not all hailstorms have tornadoes.

Hiding under a bridge over moving water during a storm is very dangerous as flash floods come without warning. More people die in flash floods than from anything else related to severe weather, including tornadoes, lightning, or falling trees.

Choose your bridge carefully.
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Old 07-24-09, 11:30 AM
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I don't screw with lightning, but I've been "caught out" a couple of times when lightning was audible and/or visible. Since my commute is short (< 6 miles), on the one hand I figured it was better to continue and get under shelter before the core of the storm really got to me, and on the other, I knew that with the airfield close by and between me and the storm, as long as I saw planes flying in the pattern I was OK.

I don't know what I'd do if I got caught out in the middle of a thunderstorm as it hasn't happened, yet.

Also, lightning doesn't always kill. Many people survive strikes, or are victims of secondary effects, and live, albeit with extensive neurological damage.
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Old 07-24-09, 11:37 AM
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That's tricky sometimes. It can start mid ride, and you don't always know if it's close or moving in your direction or not. I try to wait them out under a bridge or whatever if possible as they don't usually last that long.

My wife is tolerant of me riding in all conditions even if she thinks I'm crazy to, EXCEPT in lighting storms. If she finds out, she's really pissed.
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Old 07-24-09, 11:41 AM
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I used to never be afraid of lightning until I got caught in a bad storm this spring. I was just 2 miles from home and had to race across an open field. There were 3 strikes that were very close (within a couple hundred yards as far as I could tell since the flash and incredibly loud thunder were simultaneous). I had never been so scared in my life. Now I'm very wary of storms. Most lightning storms will pass in about 30 minutes, so if I get close to one, I find low-lying shelter and just wait it out.
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Old 07-24-09, 11:45 AM
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Seek shelter, get out of the storm. Don't screw with lightning. There are any number of documented deaths of motorcyclists from lightning. In a car, the metal shell will guide the lightning around you to ground. On a bike or motorcycle, you take the hit. If you hear thunder you are at risk.
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Old 07-24-09, 11:53 AM
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If you feel the hair on your arms stand up, stick your butt in the air. That way the lightning travels through your butt to your feet, instead of your head to your feet
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Old 07-24-09, 11:56 AM
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Thanks for the responses, guys. Don't think tornadoes are likely in my area. And, yes, I did check the hair on arms, mikeshoup .
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Old 07-24-09, 11:58 AM
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I do the old 5 second count to determine at least how far away and then do it for the next bunch to figure if it's coming at me or away. Once it gets to withing a half to quarter mile I look for shelter.
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Old 07-24-09, 12:22 PM
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good, point, i should have been more clear.

when i mentioned Bridges & Overpasses, i was thinking about elevated highways & walkways in city roads.

so the flash flood issues is not there, but they do still act as tornado catalytic,

Originally Posted by JPprivate View Post
So after a months of commuting I finally got caught in a downpour. As many have said here before, not a big deal, my brakes lost a big chunk of their efficiency, that's about it. What did concern me is lightning? Anybody here who got struck by lightning yet? (just kidding...)
Any advice, do you guys stop for a while or is the risk really minimal?
Originally Posted by EGUNWT View Post
Hiding under an overpass during a storm is fine as long as there aren't any tornadoes. Overpasses tend to act as the neck of a funnel during a tornado, and all matter of very heavy flying debris channels right through them. The truly sucky part of that is hail. You want to be under cover for hail, but if there is hail there is a very good chance for a tornado or at least huge straight line winds. Tornadoes always have hail near them. Not all hailstorms have tornadoes.

Hiding under a bridge over moving water during a storm is very dangerous as flash floods come without warning. More people die in flash floods than from anything else related to severe weather, including tornadoes, lightning, or falling trees.

Choose your bridge carefully.
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Old 07-24-09, 12:45 PM
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Originally Posted by FredOak View Post
I do the old 5 second count to determine at least how far away and then do it for the next bunch to figure if it's coming at me or away. Once it gets to withing a half to quarter mile I look for shelter.
The 5 second count, for those reading at home, means that you start counting seconds when you see the flash. When you hear the thunder, take the number of seconds and divide by five, and that's about the number of miles distant that the lightning is.

About the half to quarter mile, though, that's too close -- a storm with lightning strikes much farther away than that is within striking distance of you. The rule of thumb is that if you can count 30 seconds between the flash and the bang, you're ok -- any less is a problem. Some recommendations are even more conservative, and say that if you can hear thunder, you need to seek shelter.
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Old 07-24-09, 02:46 PM
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The rule of thumb is that if you can count 30 seconds between the flash and the bang, you're ok -- any less is a problem.
Then I definitely have a problem. We get frequent thunderstorms in the summer. I know it's possible to get struck from a storm that far away, but I figure if it's more than a mile (5 seconds), then my odds are pretty low. Not zero, but low enough to risk it. There's a non-zero chance of getting hit by a car, crashing hard from a blowout, or even having a heart attack while pumping up hill, but I don't worry about those things either. Within 5 seconds though, I'm running for shelter, and I don't ever want to be caught in a storm with less than half a second between lightning and thunder as I was before.
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Old 07-24-09, 02:52 PM
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Lightning makes me ride faster. A lot faster.

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Originally Posted by Bklyn
Obviously, the guy's like a 12th level white wizard or something. His mere presence is a danger to mortals.
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Old 07-24-09, 03:28 PM
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funny thing you guys mention thunder and the amount of time... etc.

if you get hit by lighting there's nothing to count, it hit you dead on, either that or it hit so close to you, that you wont even have to bother counting, as you'll be able to see it clearly a few feets away from you.

if you hear thunder, you are safe, there's no way to prevent or know when the lightning will strike next.

by the time you see a flash of light, it's already too late to avoid it.

lightning always comes before the thunder....
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Old 07-24-09, 04:19 PM
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Originally Posted by GTALuigi View Post
i doubt any one would be alive after getting nailed by a lightning....
https://www.nytimes.com/1983/09/30/ob...-sullivan.html

Lightning is deadly, but not 100% deadly.

"Lightning can kill people (3,696 deaths were recorded in the U.S. between 1959 and 2003) or cause cardiac arrest. Injuries range from severe burns and permanent brain damage to memory loss and personality change. About 10 percent of lightning-stroke victims are killed, and 70 percent suffer serious long-term effects. About 400 people survive lightning strokes in the U.S. each year." Source

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Old 07-24-09, 05:51 PM
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Thunderstorms used to not really bother me, but I've been caught outside during some pretty bad ones, and now I don't feel safe during one unless I'm indoors. My work schedule is pretty flexible as to when I can arrive and leave, so I will try to avoid the storm whenever possible.

A few weeks ago I was riding to the bank and an unforecasted thunderstorm sprung up. I rode home as fast as I could.

Originally Posted by GTA Luigi
if you hear thunder, you are safe, there's no way to prevent or know when the lightning will strike next.

by the time you see a flash of light, it's already too late to avoid it.

lightning always comes before the thunder....
It's a matter of probability. If the lightning is consistently striking within half a mile radius of you, there is a much greater chance you will be struck than if it's striking 5 miles away. Sure, it's not 100% predictable, but probability doesn't magically stop when determinism ends.
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Old 07-24-09, 06:59 PM
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Lighting is no joke. Only about 50 people a year in the US are killed by lighting, but another 400 or so are seriously injured, and the types of injuries caused by lighting are devastating as they often involve brain function and chronic pain.

Now, obviously something that happens to only 400 or so people a year is statistically unlikely (this is roughly 1 in 1000) but those of us outdoors in an electrical storm are obviously at higher risk.

I personally hate running into an electric storm on my commute because I have no safe places to wait it out. My precaution is to check the weather radar on the internet from my desk before I head home in the evening.
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Old 07-24-09, 07:36 PM
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Originally Posted by DoB View Post
Now, obviously something that happens to only 400 or so people a year is statistically unlikely (this is roughly 1 in 1000) but those of us outdoors in an electrical storm are obviously at higher risk.
Actually about 1 in a million in a given year or about 1 in 10,000 in a lifetime. But still much better to avoid when at all possible.
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Old 07-24-09, 08:01 PM
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Not a concern for me, this is a non-issue for those of us who ride faster than lightning.
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Old 07-24-09, 08:26 PM
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Originally Posted by prathmann View Post
Actually about 1 in a million in a given year or about 1 in 10,000 in a lifetime. But still much better to avoid when at all possible.
I was only off by a few orders of magnitude.

This is what I get for doing a rough calculation in my head. Somehow I converted the 300 million people in the US into 3x10^6. Oops.

Last edited by DoB; 07-24-09 at 09:11 PM.
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Old 07-24-09, 11:55 PM
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Originally Posted by Jay D View Post
Not a concern for me, this is a non-issue for those of us who ride faster than lightning.
Best answer so far. What do you ride? A Litespeed?
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Old 07-25-09, 12:07 AM
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Originally Posted by jeffpoulin View Post
Best answer so far. What do you ride? A Litespeed?
Great pun. I Felt it in my bones. Surely you're a master at this, a real Giant of jokesters... Thinking of your skills compared to mine makes me all Huffy out of jealousy.

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Originally Posted by Bklyn
Obviously, the guy's like a 12th level white wizard or something. His mere presence is a danger to mortals.
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Old 07-25-09, 07:28 PM
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Originally Posted by GTALuigi View Post
if you get hit by lighting there's nothing to count, it hit you dead on, either that or it hit so close to you, that you wont even have to bother counting, as you'll be able to see it clearly a few feets away from you.

if you hear thunder, you are safe
That's like saying, "If a piano falls from a 50 story building and lands right next to you, you are safe...from that piano." However, unlike falling pianos, lightning strikes tend to come in bunches -- so if you hear thunder, yeah, you are safe from that strike (assuming it wasn't close enough to injure or kill you with the blast effect). It says nothing about whether you're safe from the lightning strikes to follow, and in fact, you almost certainly aren't.
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Old 07-25-09, 08:30 PM
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Its the only thing in which I WON'T ride. I've ridden in blizzards, ice storms, heat waves of 110+, etc...
because I can always compensate for the weather with tire choice and riding style. In an ice storm, studded tires and riding slowly as well as being EXTREMELY visible can keep me relatively safe.

Lightning? There's just no way to adjust my riding to compensate for that. If a lightning bolt is gonna hit me, there's no amount of visibility and no tire in the world that will save me.
Therefore, since it's the one thing I can't help, i help the situation by taking the car to work when weather forecasts predict lightning/thunder.
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