Lightning season is here | SierraSun.com

Lightning season is here

David Bunker
Sierra Sun

Photo by Ryan Salm PhotographyLightning strikes are more common this time of year.

Lightning caught a Glenshire home on fire Tuesday, damaging the house’s electrical system, telephone wiring and punching two holes in the roof, according to Truckee fire officials.

The resident of the home on Codogan Street saw the lightning bolt flash as she was driving home, said Chuck Thomas, assistant fire marshall for the Truckee Fire Protection District.

“She saw it hit, she just didn’t see it hit her house,” Thomas said.

The bolt hit a tree near the home, traveled out a branch and then jumped an 8- to 10-foot gap and entered the home in two different locations, he said.

Thomas said the tree in the backyard has a scar from a previous lightning hit.

A neighbor reported the lightning strike. Shortly thereafter a fire engine and 12 firefighters found a fire smoldering within the walls and ceiling of the home.

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Although the fire was more smoke than flames, Truckee fire Chief Bryce Keller said the house had the potential to go up in flames if it was not detected early.

“This was not a real glamorous fire. The building was not fully involved, but it would have been if we didn’t take action,” Keller said.

The home had to be vacated as the electrical system and phone system had to be disconnected because they can harbor electrical impulses from the lightning. The home’s wiring will be inspected and repaired before the residents move back in, Keller said.

Firefighters had to pull portions of the wall and ceiling apart to ensure the smoldering fire was fully extinguished.

While there is little rhyme or reason to where lightning strikes, it is important to know the electricity of the bolt usually travels far beyond the area it actually hits.

Depending on the intensity of the storm and the moisture of the ground, electrical impulses can charge the surface a significant distance from the impact point, Thomas said.

“There is a tremendous amount of energy, and it can travel a long way,” he said.

As summer rolls into the Sierra Nevada so does the likelihood of lightning, one of the deadliest weather phenomenon each year.

An average of 67 people die annually from lightning strikes, according to the National Weather Service. That is a higher average than tornado deaths or hurricane fatalities.

Last year through October, 33 people were killed by lightning. Many more people are struck by lightning and survive with serious injuries, according to the Weather Service.

The first step to protecting yourself is recognizing the weather patterns that produce lightning. Towering cumulus clouds, summer clouds that stretch vertically into the sky, are the first indication of a thunderstorm. Lightning can strike as far as 10 miles away from the rain area in a thunderstorm, according to the National Weather Service. A 30-second lapse between a lightning strike and the sound of thunder means you are within six miles of the lightning.

Experts recommend that individuals seek shelter and stay away from windows doors and anything that may transmit electricity.

People involved in outdoor activities, like swimming, boating, hiking and golfing, are at a higher risk of being hit by lightning, the National Weather Service reported.

For more lightning safety information visit: http://www.lightningsafety.noaa.gov/index.htm