Fort St. John a lightning hot spot in BC, meteorologist says

This week is Lightning Safety Week in Canada, and as we prepare to head into another summer outdoor recreation season, Environment Canada warns lightning awareness becomes very important, and that’s particularly true in this area.

“Summer is really the peak of lightning activity in canada… and Fort St. John is actually a lightning hotspot in BC second only to Cranbrook,” said meteorologist Matt McDonald.

“Fort St. John gets about 800 lightning strikes a year.”

Last year there was more than a dozen strike victims across the country. McDonald says there’s a common misconception that most injuries and fatalities are caused by direct strike.

“If a nearby tree or nearby building might get struck by lightning and the electricity travels through the ground and people end up getting struck by ground current or what we call a side flash,” McDonald said.

“So the lightning will strike some random object… and the lightning will actually jump from that object to a person nearby.”

And then there are the questions of protection and injury prevention and/or response.

“We recommend that people stay in shelter for a good 20-30 minutes after last lightning strike,” McDonald said.

“Indoors is really the safest place you can be. If you can’t get inside, then we recommend assuming the lightning safety position, which is crouching up in a little ball and keeping your two feet together because that will reduce the charge potential through your body.”

If you see someone be struck by lightning, McDonald says to call 911 right away. If you are trained in CPR, you want to administer that right away, he says.

“There’s incredible amounts of electricity of energy in a bolt of lightning and its something not to take lightly,” said McDonald.

“If you could capture the amount of energy in a lightning strike you could power a house for an entire month.”

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