This past Friday (3/18/16) provided two poignant reminders of the threat events face from lightning. In Austin, severe storms rolled through the area during the SXSW Festival, lighting up the sky and exposing thousands of revelers to potential danger. While thankfully no injuries were reported as a result of a strike, the photo above demonstrates how potentially catastrophic a direct strike might have been. Festival organizers and authorities were well-prepared and proactive in communicating the threat via social media, and advising attendees to take immediate shelter. Despite this, a scroll through the gallery linked above reveals little visible concern by attendees, who seem more worried about getting wet than taking shelter.
On a more tragic note, a New Orleans woman was killed and two others injured when lightning struck at the T-Bois Blues Festival in Larose. The trio had taken shelter in their camping tent when the incident occurred. The festival’s official severe weather plan for attendees is unknown. However, it’s important to note that camping tents provide no protection from lightning, and should be considered a shelter of last resort.
Understanding the science, risks, and myths surrounding severe weather is a crucial component of effective response planning. For a primer on lightning-related threats and how to prepare for them, check out the article from PLSN linked below. Likewise, sign up for the ESA’s mailing list for updates on the 2017 Severe Weather Summit and other weather-related training opportunities.
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