Barhite: Don’t underestimate seeking shelter during lightningWritten by Brandi Barhite | Community Ombudsman | firstname.lastname@example.org
Rose Catholic Church in Perrysburg and a Gibsonburg man were reportedly struck by lightning April 3 when a series of storms blazed through Northwest Ohio.
These incidents highlight the danger of lightning season, which started this month, according to Miss Ohio 2011 Ellen Bryan, who promotes lightning safety and awareness because of her older sister’s lightning tragedy.
“The three worst months are June, July and August, but it starts in April,” said the Celina native. “Our motto is, ‘When thunder roars, go indoors.’”
Bryan said the usual way to calculate the proximity of lightning can lead to injury or even death. For instance, many people use the formula “when thunder is heard five seconds after a flash, the lightning is 1 mile away; when thunder is heard 10 seconds after a flash, it is 2 miles away.”
Bryan said stop using that calculation.
“Lightning can strike up to 10 miles outside of a storm,” she said. “If you are waiting for it to be closer, the next one could be right next to you. Whenever you hear thunder, go in a building or in a vehicle.”
In June 2000, Bryan’s sister, Christina, was struck by lightning when she walked out to the driving range after a thunderstorm. The bolt stopped the 17-year-old’s heart.
“I am the youngest of us three girls and I had just finished fifth grade when this happened,” Bryan said. “I didn’t realize how severe it would be. I remember looking over to my mom as we were rushing to the golf course and saying, ‘Is this serious? Could this kill someone?’”
While Christina survived, her left eardrum was blown out and she had burns to her body; however, those injuries were minor compared to her brain being deprived of oxygen for 10 minutes.
“She hasn’t been able to talk since,” Bryan said. “She can move a little bit, but she has a hard time controlling her muscles. If she had an iPad in front of her she doesn’t have enough movement and control to move the pages with her finger.”
Bryan said 90 percent of people who are struck by lightning do survive, which is a surprising statistic. Survivors have a lot of disabilities, though, including short-term memory loss and brain damage like her sister. Approximately 54 people are killed every year from lightning strikes, according to the National Weather Service.
Bryan chose this cause to promote as Miss Ohio because she wanted to be “the voice of Christina and stop this from happening to other people.”
“I like being able to make the personal connection,” said the aspiring TV broadcaster. “I will continue this platform even after my reign as Miss Ohio is over. I will go anywhere for a first job or a career, but down South there are more lightning strikes. Ohio is No. 6 in lightning strikes.”