SI Vault
A charge no sportsman needs
Barbara Hildenbrand
October 04, 1971
Two fishermen in a small metal skiff in Barnegat Bay are struck by lightning. The bolt hits one man's metal fishing rod, then jumps to his jacket zipper, killing him. His companion is knocked unconscious but recovers with no ill effects.
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October 04, 1971

A Charge No Sportsman Needs

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If you are caught out in the open when a lightning storm breaks loose, take shelter in a car (but never a convertible) if one is nearby and close the windows. If lightning should strike, the charge will run along the outside of the auto's steel frame to the ground. Taking shelter under a tree, most people know, is not a wise idea. Lightning is attracted to the tallest object in the area. Avoid high ground for the same reason.

If you are with a group when a storm breaks, scatter. Lightning is more likely to strike a number of people than an individual. Avoid wire fences. Lightning tends to strike fence posts, and the wires are good conductors. They deliver a strong jolt quite a distance.

Do not hold a golf club, fishing rod, metal tennis racket or even an umbrella over your head. These act like lightning rods without the proper grounding. More fishermen are killed by lightning than almost any other outdoor group, probably because they refuse to quit casting when the fish are biting. Stay away from tractors, golf carts, scooters or other machinery.

If lightning is striking close by, lie flat on the ground away from trees and poles, preferably in a low spot like a ditch or ravine. If you have a rubber raincoat, put it under you on the ground, not over you to stay dry. Rain won't kill you.

Water is a good conductor of electricity. A lightning stroke can electrocute swimmers up to 500 yards away. So if you are swimming or out in a small boat, head for shore. If aboard a large boat, go below and stay away from metal objects that could conduct a charge to your body.

If you are indoors—25% of lightning deaths occur there—do not use the telephone, do not touch metal objects, such as the stove, or electrical appliances, such as the television set, and do not take a bath or wash dishes. Do not stand between an open door and an open window. Lightning can strike horizontally between the door and window.

The precautions may seem excessive, but consider the alternative. Why test Dr. Taussig's theory of a reversible death?

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