NWS: Lightning a danger to outdoor athletes

LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) – It is Lightning Safety Awareness Week and it’s aimed at helping everyone understand the dangers of lightning year-round. Since it’s summer, severe weather can pop up quickly. But a thunderstorm does not have to be severe to be dangerous, lightning strikes can happen without warning even in a non-severe thunderstorm.

“It can be up to 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit. It can kill someone instantly,” said News 18′s Chief Meteorologist Chad Evans.

According to the National Weather Service, on average, lightning kills 51 people nationwide every year. There have been seven deaths so far in 2014.

Central Catholic High School head football coach Kevin O’Shea said dealing with lightning during practices and games is a serious matter.

“We see lightning, we are out of there right away and we have a long track back to our locker room. So, the kids get back there as soon as they can. We get them inside and we get them out of trouble,” said O’Shea.

A study by the NWS said three percent of outdoor sports-related lightning fatalities were in football since 2006. Soccer was number one at 41 percent and golf was in second at 28 percent.

“Lightning is misleading because many times it seems the storm has passed, but lightning strikes can still occur well away from the pair of storms,” said Evans.

O’Shea said if there is lightning, they wait at least 30 minutes after the last flash of lightning before continuing practice or a game. It is also a rule enforced by the Indiana High School Athletic Association.

“Five extra minutes of practice is not going to win or lose a football game for you, so it is important that the safety comes first,” said O’Shea. “These young men are going to be husbands and fathers someday, and we want to make sure they get there.”

O’Shea said technology, like cell phones and text alerts, also help coaches and officials keep track of severe weather during sporting events.

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