Thursday 13 August, 2020

Lightning strikes electricity pole at Piat causing wires to spark

Last night, we experienced some heavy rainfall accompanied by thunder and lightning due to what is expected to become Tropical Storm Isaias' proximity to the Leeward Islands.

It was a seemingly normal thunderous night in Piat, Grande Riviere, as this type of weather is expected during the hurricane season.

As part of my normal thunderstorm routine, I was curled up in bed watching my favorite Netflix shows.

As I indulged in my past time, lightning bolts struck one after the other, illuminating everything in its path followed by crashing thunder.

I decided to peek outside to see what was happening. 

Amid the gusty winds and rain, I spotted a sparking electrical pole in the distance which seemed like it had been struck by one of the lightning bolts.

As I watched the flickering electrical wires on the pole, I couldn’t help but wonder, “What should I do in this situation? How can I safeguard my family from this extremely dangerous situation?”

I reached out to Roger Joseph, the Corporate Communications Manager of St Lucia Electricity Services Limited (LUCELEC) to get some information on what should be done in such a situation.

Here is what he advised:

"Generally, in severe weatherheavy rains, lightning and thunderstorms and tropical stormsyou can have interruptions with the electricity supply. You indicated you may have situations where lightning can strike a pole, trees falling on power lines and that sort of stuff. So, you are likely to have some kind of power interruption. When that happens, a couple of things to note:

  1. If it’s lightning or thunderstorm, we have a number of public service announcements on radio, on television, on social media that we circulate to our customers to indicate that when you have severe lightning or thunderstorms, the safest thing to do is to turn off your appliances at the switch. Because if you have a lightning strike that happens close to you, it can interrupt your electricity supply and cause damage to your appliances.
  2. We also advise customers generally to stay indoors, especially if there are trees falling or branches falling that are throwing down power lines. If there are power lines that are on the ground, assume that they are live. Never approach power lines thinking that they might be without electricity.
  3. When things like this happen, we encourage customers to call our phone lines at 452-2165 in the north and 454-6617 for the south. Once you have made the report and our trouble call crew is aware of it, as soon as it is possible, once the weather clears up, they will respond and attend to the fault.

We generally advise customers to be mindful that that in severe weather there may be interruptions in the power supply and when that does happen, please report the fault or the outage to our call lines and we will respond as soon as we can."

I also took the opportunity to do some research about common myths relating to lightning which I have written below for your information. I do hope this information serves you well should you ever encounter a similar situation.

Here are a few myths and facts about lightning, courtesy of the US-based National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration:

Myth: Lightning never strikes the same place twice. 
Fact: Lightning often strikes the same place repeatedly, especially if it’s a tall, pointy, isolated object. The Empire State Building is hit nearly 100 times a year.

Myth: If it’s not raining or there aren’t clouds overhead, you’re safe from lightning. 
Fact: Lightning often strikes more than three miles from the center of the thunderstorm, far outside the rain or thunderstorm cloud. “Bolts from the blue” can strike 10 -15 miles from the thunderstorm.

Myth: A lightning victim is electrified. If you touch the individual, you’ll be electrocuted. 
Fact: The human body does not store electricity. It is perfectly safe to touch a lightning victim to give him or her first aid.

Myth: If outside in a thunderstorm, you should seek shelter under a tree to stay dry. 
Fact: Being underneath a tree is the second leading cause of lightning casualties.

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