06/28/04 — Red Cross offers lightning, flood tips

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Red Cross offers lightning, flood tips

By Becky Barclay
Published in News on June 28, 2004 1:58 PM

The Wayne County Chapter of the American Red Cross has offered information on lightning and flooding in the wake of thunderstorms that have rocked the county.

Chuck Waller, interim director of the chapter, noted that North Carolina ranks third in the nation in lightning deaths, having had five people killed by lightning last year.

Most people who are struck survive, but often with debilitating symptoms like memory and attention deficits, sleeplessness, dizziness, isolation and depression.

Teresa Williams, disaster services director, said that contrary to popular belief, people who are struck by lightning do not carry an electrical charge. But they may have trouble breathing and their heart may stop after being struck, and CPR may be needed immediately.

The Red Cross gives these tips if a storm is nearby:

*Do not be the tallest object in the immediate area.

*Do not stand out in the open.

*Do not stand under a tree.

*Do not stand in a gazebo or open shelter such as a baseball dugout or bus shelter.

*Do not stand next to metal objects such as pipes, light poles, door frames or metal fences.

*Do not stay beside water such as ponds or running water.

*Do not use plug-in tools or machines indoors or outdoors.

*Do not use a plug-in telephone or a computer with a modem.

*Do not take a shower or bath.

*Do get into an enclosed building.

*Do get into a car, van, truck or bus with the windows closed all the way. Do not touch the doors or other metal inside.

*If out in the open with nowhere to go, squat down with your feet together and let only your feet touch the ground.

As for flooding, Waller said that, "First of all, people need to understand the difference between a watch and a warning. A watch means conditions are favorable for flooding and a warning means there is a flood.

"And a lot of people don't realize that during storms, tornadoes and hurricanes, most of the deaths are due to flooding. Flooding is something you just don't want to mess with."

Waller said it takes only six inches of water to sweep a person off his feet. "Water traveling two miles an hour -- and that's pretty slow -- can sweep a car off a bridge. Two feet of water can lift a vehicle straight up. A cubic yard of water weighs 1,700 pounds and that's why water can carry houses away. It's so heavy and anything it runs into, it just smashes

"Take no chances with water," he said. "When roads have been blocked off because of high water, stay away from them."

He said that people who live in low-lying areas need to have an evacuation route and have different ways to get out. "Making bad decisions at the time the water's rising can be dangerous. You need to have a well planned escape route ahead of time. And don't forget to have your disaster kit."

At what point do people need to consider evacuating?

"If a person is concerned about flooding , he needs to get in contact with emergency management at 731-1416 to see if he should evacuate," Waller said. If a person does evacuate and goes to a Red Cross shelter, he should have a plan for his pets because they are not allowed in the shelters.

Waller said the Red Cross doesn't want to make people fearful of lightning and flood, just mindful. "They need to be prepared in the event of either," he said.