Paul is a full-time fifth-grade teacher at an elementary school in Fairfield ... Paul is a New York Emmy award winner (2007), five-time Emmy nominee, and four-time winner of the Connecticut Associated Press Broadcasters' Association award for 'Best Weathercast' in Connecticut (2006, 2008, 2009, 2012) ... The local weather journal is a two-time winner of the Communicator Award of Distinction (2012 & 2013) ... Paul was inducted into the Housatonic Community College Hall of Fame and received the Distinguished Alumni Award (2012) ... Follow Paul on Twitter @PaulPiorek ...

Monday, June 23, 2014

Lightning Safety Awareness Week

This is Lightning Safety Awareness Week. People are often surprised to hear that I'm afraid of lightning and thunderstorms. Whenever thunderstorms are in the forecast, I tell our viewers that I'll be hiding under the bed when they arrive. "You're a weatherman, so you should know all about lightning," is the refrain I frequently hear. That's exactly why I'm afraid of it. I know that lightning can kill. This photo of a lightning strike was taken at Calf Pasture Beach in Norwalk.

Lightning is one of nature's most awe inspiring and dangerous phenomenon. The average lightning flash could light a 100-watt light bulb for more than 3 months. The temperature of a lightning bolt may reach 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit. That's even hotter than the surface of the Sun.

Lightning kills about 73 people nationwide each year. In fact, lightning remains one of the most deadly weather phenomena in the United States, and it can occur almost anywhere throughout the entire year. According to the National Weather Service Web site, lightning occurring during snowstorms has even killed people. However, a few simple precautions can reduce many of the dangers posed by lightning.

First, when you first hear thunder, it is time to act to prevent being struck by lightning. Generally speaking, when you can see lightning or hear thunder, you're already at risk for lightning injury or death. If the time delay between seeing the flash of lightning and hearing the bang of thunder is less than 30 seconds, immediately seek a safer location.

If you're outside, you should avoid high places and open fields, isolated trees, gazebos, open sided picnic shelters, baseball dugouts, communication towers, flagpoles, light poles, metal or wood bleachers, metal fences, convertibles, golf carts, and water, whether a lake, pool, or river.

Inside, stay away from the telephone or computer, taking a shower, washing your hands, doing dishes, or any contact with conductive surfaces with exposure to the outside. These include metal door or window frames, electrical wiring, telephone wiring, cable TV wiring, or plumbing. People should stay away from playing computer games, too.

Many years ago my aunt was nearly struck by lightning while walking in an upstairs hallway during a severe thunderstorm. The windows at each end of the hallway were open, and a vivid bolt of lightning traveled through the hallway just as she entered a side room. The experience was frightening, to say the least.