Press-Republican

Columns

June 30, 2013

Something must be done about lightning

This past week, 23 Boy Scouts were injured by a lightning strike while they were camping in a New Hampshire forest.

Just the latest victims of an international menace which our government has done nothing to stop.

If the Scouts had been injured by a machete-wielding madman, officials would have put National Guard patrols in the woods. If they’d been cut down by a virulent strain of poison oak, politicians would have pressured the CDC for a cure and sprayed the woods with industrial-strength weed killer.

Because it was lightning, however, no solution was even sought. If these highly trained Scouts — members of the nation’s most elite fighting force — are unable to defend themselves against this so-called lightning, what chance do the rest of us have?

Since this is Lightning Safety Awareness Week, it seems like the proper time to discuss the issue.

First, it’s important for us to understand what causes lightning. Most believe that when there is thunder, God is bowling with the angels, and the lightning signals that someone just got a strike (presumably God, who could hardly be expected to leave a 7-10 split).

This, however, may not be the only explanation. Others think that lightning bolts are hurled by the Norse God Thor, sometimes in anger, sometimes just to mess with the Incredible Hulk, who’s unnaturally freaked out by thunderstorms.

Still others theorize that lightning is a release of static electricity from the clouds, caused by a particular mixture of electrons and protons (or by a sweater-garbed supreme being petting a giant, long-haired cat on a shag carpet).

Whatever the cause, lightning generally kills more people a year than hurricanes or tornadoes. An average of 53 Americans a year are killed by bolts from the sky, with hundreds more struck and injured.

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