Lightning: Think Like The Animals



Earlier this week, we had a monster thunderstorm roll through our area on the coast of South Carolina. This was a massive system that started from the Gulf of Mexico, went across Florida out into the Atlantic and then curved back to hit the southeastern coast.

There was a lot of lightning in the system–the kind that is so close you can hear the sizzle before it lights up and the thunder is less than a three-count away. My wife and I love to sit in our back screened porch and watch these storms come in; they are a mighty show of Mother Nature’s force.

Animals often have better sense in storms than people, as was the case in this storm.  When the first flash of bright lightning was followed about a second later by a clap of thunder that shook the windows and rattled the garage door, the older of our two cats was all eyeballs and fur as he took off for his private storm shelter under our bed; the one-year-old kitten stayed with us, curious about all the noise.

My wife and I took our seats in our favorite (metal) glider chair, side-by-side, watching the wind drive rain in through the screens, pooling up a bit as the storm intensified. The kitten, already showing better sense than us, was under the chair.

We “oohed” and “ah’d” as the storm drew closer, the time between lightning flash and thunder clap became shorter and shorter and the rain came down so heavy we started joking about whether it was too late to get flood insurance.

When one particularly thunderous clap of thunder rattled my teeth and rolled on for about 30 seconds, the younger cat sped from under the chair to join his older and wiser compatriot under the bed.

About 20 minutes into the storm it began to dawn on me, as I felt the damp floor with my bare feet and remembered that my derriere was seated on a metal bench, that perhaps this wasn’t the wisest choice. Maybe the cats were on to something.

So I casually and without panic in my voice said to my wife, “You know, maybe we should go inside and watch the storm from there.” She, a diehard storm-watcher, bristled at my feint-heartedness and scoffed my petty fears.

Then she took my hand and said, “Well, if we get hit we’ll get hit together.”

I guess this was supposed to give me strength, but I said, “But what will our children do without us, who would feed the cats and bring in the mail?”

I think there was a flippant remark forming in her brain and about to be delivered when the entire backyard lit up as a white hot bolt of lightning ripped open the clouds, immediately followed by the loudest clap of thunder I never hope to hear again in my life.

There was no hesitation, no discussion and whatever flippant remark she was formulating was short-circuited. At this point, we pretty much looked like the cats, without fur or tails.  We were all eyeballs and elbows and I’m not sure our feet actually touched the ground as we rocketed out of the porch and into the safety of the house.

We laughed about it afterwards, but the moral of the story and the reason I tell it here is to say that lightning is nature’s direct current; you wouldn’t intentionally stick a metal rod into a light socket and so why take chances with lightning?

Statistically, an average of about 50 people per year can be expected to die from lightning strikes, based on a 50-year average according to the National Weather Service. Apparently we humans are getting the picture; in 2006 48 people died – in 2013, 23.  So far this year 14 have died.

Page 1 of 2 | Next page

Related posts:

  1. React To Weather With Lightning Speed
  2. When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors!
  3. Lightning In A Basket — Publisher’s Note
  4. National Anthem Is 200 Years Old: Sing The Song as It Was Written!
  5. A Day To Remember
  • Columns
  • Departments