The destructive power of lightning shattered the morning office routine for Teina Carpenter, Concrete Enterprises office manager.
Around 11 a.m. Thursday, June 26, lightning hit the ungrounded radio antenna attached to the north side of the office exterior wall.
Lightning passed down through the pole then followed the path of least resistance and went into the office through the electrical wiring and exploded through the office service radio and copier just a couple of feet from Carpenter, said Pratt Fire Captain Todd Hoffman.
Carpenter said it was very loud and scared her as she tried to get away from the area and figure out what happened. She complained about feeling sick to her stomach and having difficulty hearing out of her right ear that was closest to the explosion.
The blast scorched the wall and fried the electronics on the radio and copier. It also burned out the electrical outlet in the adjoining room and melted the electrical cord plugged into the outlet.
On the outside of the building, the electricity traveled down the metal clip pieces on the corners of the building and blew some of them completely off the building. It also caused two exterior lights to explode.
Burn marks were visible at several locations both inside and outside the building.
With all the damage, Hoffman said it was surprising that it didn’t set the building on fire.
Pratt Fire Chief David Kramer said all buildings need a good ground system that will discharge the lightning into the ground. Most homes today already have a good ground but homes built before the 1960s may not have ground wires for the electrical system.
National Lightning Safety Awareness Week is June 23 to 28. Lightning is a powerful force that can cause damage and injury or even death.
According to the National oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, lightning caused 23 deaths in the United States in 2013 with Arizona and Florida recording four deaths each for the most of any state. None were recorded in Kansas. Almost half of those deaths, 10, occurred outdoors and open areas. The 30-year average for lightning deaths in the US is 51.
Tim Branscom, Pratt County Emergency Manager, said if a person can hear thunder, they could be struck by lightning even from a distance of 10 miles from a storm.
Taking shelter inside a building or an enclosed vehicle is the best option. When indoors, don’t use electrical appliances, including computers, connected to outlets and don’t get in the shower, tub or wash dishes because lightning can travel though pipes in older homes, Branscom said.
To stay safe during lightning, NOAA offers the following safety tips.
When outdoors and no other shelter is available:
• Immediately get off elevated areas such as hills, mountain ridges or peaks.
• Never lie flat on the ground.
• Never use a cliff or rocky overhang for shelter.
• Immediately get out and away from ponds, lakes and other bodies of water.
• Stay away from objects that conduct electricity (barbed wire fences, power lines, windmills, etc.)
• Stay away from windows and doors and stay off porches.
• Do not lie on concrete floors and do not lean against concrete walls.
If a person is struck, they are not electrified. The human body doesn’t store electricity so it’s safe to give CPR to a lighting victim.
For more information about lightning and other weather safety, visit www.nws.noaa.gov/safety.php