Some facts about lightning…and why you need a warning!

There are a few “old-wives-tales” and common misconceptions regarding lightning and thunderstorms which need to be changed in order to keep everyone as safe as possible under these circumstances, especially when you find yourselves out on the course as a storm approaches.

That thunder sounds a long way off; we’ll be fine for a while yet

A lightning bolt often exceeds 6 miles (10 km) in length and rarely comes vertically to earth. So if lightning occurs within this distance, the next flash may well be to where you are standing. You cannot usually hear the thunder if the lightning is over 6 miles away, so you often have no audible warning at all.

I haven’t seen any lightning yet, so it must be a way off; we’ll be fine

It is also a fact that nearby lightning occurring inside the thunder cloud during the day can be unseen, even by trained meteorological observers. Unfortunately, humans are rather poor thunderstorm detectors so should definitely not be relied upon for consistent, early warnings!

It hasn’t started to rain yet, so the storm is not overhead; we’ll be fine

Whilst the highest concentration of flashes are often close to the areas of most intense hail or rainfall, lightning can strike the ground with or without rain falling at your location, so do not be fooled into thinking you are any less at risk if it is (or is not) raining!

Let us shelter under that tree until the storm has passed; we’ll be fine

Most people killed or injured by lightning are not struck by lightning directly. Instead, many people struck outside are electrocuted by the very strong currents flowing in the ground close to the strike location, which travels through their body from one foot to another. Alternatively, those too close to an object which is struck will receive a shock from a “flash-over” from the object which was struck, such as a tree. This can occur several metres from the object itself and is one of the reasons why you should never (ever) shelter under any tall object (including trees!).

The safest places to shelter during a thunder storm are in a properly grounded building, or a fully-enclosed metal vehicle. Ungrounded huts, wooden sheds, under trees, rain shelters or canopies offer no protection and can actually be very dangerous places during a thunderstorm.