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Lightning? Am I safe on the bike.

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Lightning? Am I safe on the bike.

Old 10-28-04, 07:59 PM
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Lightning? Am I safe on the bike.

Just had this come up the other day and never thought of it before. I was working bus duty (teacher) and we had to move the kids under an overhang when it started raining. None of the kids saw any danger in the lightning (typical "I can't be hurt" teenagers), but I know kids die every year on football fields, etc from lighting strikes. Luckily, by the time I pedaled home the rain had passed, but I still wondered. How safe am I in lightning?
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Old 10-28-04, 08:09 PM
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Not very.
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Old 10-28-04, 08:37 PM
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Originally Posted by 24601
Just had this come up the other day and never thought of it before. I was working bus duty (teacher) and we had to move the kids under an overhang when it started raining. None of the kids saw any danger in the lightning (typical "I can't be hurt" teenagers), but I know kids die every year on football fields, etc from lighting strikes. Luckily, by the time I pedaled home the rain had passed, but I still wondered. How safe am I in lightning?
There were 44 deaths caused by lightning in 2001 in the USA
(There were 43 deaths from contact with hornets, wasps and bees)

There were 734 deaths caused by falling our of bed or other furniture in USA in 2001

Therer were 3,281 deaths by drowning.

There were 47,288 deaths caused while being transported in a vehicle in 2001 in USA.

Each year our local TV stations have a myriad of public service and news announcements warning of the dangers of lightning - but I never see anything about driving safely, drowning or falling out of bed.

Lightning sells!

http://www.nsc.org/lrs/statinfo/odds.htm

However, I would NOT recommend staying out in the lightning if it can be avoided. I am sure your odds of being hit go way up during an active lightning storm, and it is wise to take prudent precautions.

We live in the 2nd most "lightninged" area in the USA (The Castle Rock/Parker area in Colorado), first being parts of Florida.

We are told with a straight face by the news commentators that one should go inside or go to a safe place whenever you hear thunder in the area, and stay there until 30 minutes after the last thunder is heard. Great advice, except if I followed it, there are days when I would be inside the entire day, following those rules.

So, I use my common sense, try not to ride where I am the tallest object around, and get under an underpass when it is real close.

Last edited by DnvrFox; 10-29-04 at 06:17 AM.
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Old 10-28-04, 08:41 PM
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If you are out in a storm you might as well be on your bike. The wet roads are a bigger risk. The fact that you are riding on metal actually will have little effect, you are just as likely to be hit walking etc. I'd rather be riding so I can get to shelter faster.
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Old 10-29-04, 12:22 AM
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I forget where it was that I read it, but no you are not safe on a bike. It was thought that because of the rubber of the wheels you might think it was a preventative, but it isn't. Fortunately, unless you are like in the middle of a field, or biking across North or South Dakota, lightening tends to strike objects that it reaches first, so if I am riding in a lightening storm it will tend to strike buildings or trees before I'll get hit, living in an urban area.
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Old 10-29-04, 01:04 AM
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Well, as others already noted, lightning will strike the nearest object (conductor) to pass the electrical current into ground. Because human is a low object compared to trees or buildings, chances that you will be striked by lightning are not very high, as someone noted: 44 death in a year. So, if you are in an area where there objects taller than you are, you can feel safer. Also it depends on the storm.

Here is a story.

Last Summer, I was riding on a trans-Canada highway approaching Regina, Saskatchewan.

It was dark, it was in Saskatchewan, which means it's a really flat area with fields on both sides of the road and absolutely noo trees.

Now, another problem is that for about an hour or more, lightning was striking almost constantly!!!!!!!

This is no joke, the sky was actually blue most of the time. I never seen such weather anywhere ever before. But if there are forum memebers here that live in Regina or around, they can probably verify that storms like that happen there.

Anyway, while riding, I really was very counscious of the risk to be stiked... but nothing happened. So, a lot of it depends on how often the lightning strikes in a particular storm

I guess if you would stand on the top of the mountain during a storm with a lot of lightnings, you have much greater chance to be striked. (also if you raise your arms to the side, making a cross ).
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Old 10-29-04, 04:42 AM
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Worst Lightning Strike Death Toll
A total of 81 people aboard a Boeing 707-121 jet airliner on its way from Puerto Rico to Philadelphia died when the plane was struck by lightning near Elkton, Maryland, USA, on December 8, 1963. The airplane was in a holding pattern with five others, waiting for winds to subside before landing. A lightning strike ignited fuel vapor in a wing reserve tank, causing a mid-air explosion.
The last message from the striken Pan American World Airways jet the Clipper Tradewind was "Clipper out of control", before it crashed, killing all 73 passengers and all 8 crew. As a result of this crash, the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) insisted that all commercial jet airliners be fitted with lightning discharge wicks.


[http://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/]
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Old 10-29-04, 05:57 AM
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I have a healthy respect for lightning, but the chances of being struck are quite small. If I am riding when there is lightning around I pay attention to the flash/thunder lag, you know, counting the seconds to see how far away the flash was at ~1100 feet per second speed of sound. If the strikes are obviously getting closer, say under a mile (4-5 seconds) I start looking around for a place to get under shelter. I've only done it twice in 4 years, waiting 5-10 minutes for the storm to pass. Maybe it's unnecessary, but I figure its a small price to pay for a little extra insurance.
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Old 10-29-04, 06:32 AM
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Originally Posted by naisme
I forget where it was that I read it, but no you are not safe on a bike. It was thought that because of the rubber of the wheels you might think it was a preventative, but it isn't. Fortunately, unless you are like in the middle of a field, or biking across North or South Dakota, lightening tends to strike objects that it reaches first, so if I am riding in a lightening storm it will tend to strike buildings or trees before I'll get hit, living in an urban area.
You are correct, tires (bicycle or auto) provide no safety from lightning.

If you think about it a minute, the lightning has already jumped from a cloud through several thousand feet of air. Air is an excellent insulator, yet the lightning has enough force to jump through that insulating air with no problem. A couple of dinky tires are not going to stop it, either.

The safety that a car provides relates to you being surrounded by a steel shell, where the lightning can go around you. Therefore, convertibles are NOT a good place to be in a lightning storm.

Years ago, when I used to go on "lightning patrol" when working for the US Forest Service (following lightning storms through the forest), we were told to not touch the sides of the vehicle when inside, and to keep the windows closed so the lightning would not jump through the truck. I have also worked on fire lookouts during intense lightning storms, where we had 100's of strikes. Lookouts have miles of copper cable running from the cab of the lookout down into the soil around the base of the lookout so the lightning flows to the ground, and you also sit on a glass based stool.

Please see previous thread:

http://www.bikeforums.net/showthread...ight=lightning

Last edited by DnvrFox; 10-29-04 at 06:48 AM.
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Old 10-29-04, 07:13 AM
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Bottom line, is it worth the risk?

Maybe the reason the fatality rate for lightning strikes is so low is because most people are smart enough to come in out of the rain.
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Old 10-29-04, 07:27 AM
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Bottom line, is it worth the risk?
Personal call.

I am going to drive my car this morning. Oops, my chances of being killed in an auto accident are far higher than being killed by lightning.

On second thought, I think I will stay in bed. Oops, 734 people killed falling out of bed in 2001.

Oh, I will work in the garden - oops, 43 people killed by wasps and bees.

Life is so darned full of risks. Think I will just stop living!


Maybe the reason the fatality rate for lightning strikes is so low is because most people are smart enough to come in out of the rain.
And, admittedly, Colorado has more than its share of lightning deaths.
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Old 10-29-04, 10:24 AM
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Originally Posted by DnvrFox
Personal call.
Exacta-mundo.

I'll ride in a storm, in general most of what we have up here is cloud to cloud type lightning. I can't remember the last full blown storm with ground strikes.

I wonder how many brave and fearless riders suddendly become more self-aware after becoming married or spawning a couple offspring?
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Old 10-29-04, 11:22 AM
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Originally Posted by dobber
Exacta-mundo.

I'll ride in a storm, in general most of what we have up here is cloud to cloud type lightning. I can't remember the last full blown storm with ground strikes.

I wonder how many brave and fearless riders suddendly become more self-aware after becoming married or spawning a couple offspring?
Yea, it's called maturity.
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Old 10-29-04, 11:37 AM
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Sometimes you just never know. In New Mexico I have a steel pole barn, the roof peak is about 14' high. It is all steel, even the vertical "poles" supporting the barn are steel that go down into the ground. About 500' away a neighbor has a wooden gate post with an 18" tall "Pan" character on it (the little guy that plays the flute). Pan is made from a stamped piece of sheet metal and is screwed to the wooden post, a far lower profile target than my barn (you know where this is going). After several severe thunderstorms: barn zero, Pan multiple hits. One hit blew the wooden post apart and another hit blew the tops off of the lag bolts. Pan was found "dead" in his driveway. You just never know. If I hear thunder/see lightning and the storm is closer than 5 miles I will seek shelter in a building, or car and wait it out.

'bent Brian
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Old 10-29-04, 11:50 AM
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http://www.bikeforums.net/showthread...3&page=2&pp=25

A source described and I quote "The air near a lightning strike is heated to 50,000 degrees F hotter than the surface of the sun!"

or 30,000 degrees K.
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