Are you afraid of lightning?

Published 8:01 pm Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Well you should be, especially if you had lived during the 1940s. It was during this period that hundreds of people were struck by lightning and killed each year.

In fact, in 1943, nearly 500 people in the United States were killed by lightning. That number has dropped over the years. Lightning was responsible, for under 20 deaths in 2017.

Personally, lightning is probably about the only thing I’m afraid of on planet Earth. During a storm, as a child growing up in the south, children in my family — and probably in many more — were told to sit still and to be quiet while God was doing his work. All the electrical appliances except the refrigerator were turned off while God worked. My brother and I reckoned that because of the noise of the thunder and lightning he made, maybe God was kicking some more angels out of heaven.

God was truly great and benevolent to our community. Even though most homes were poorly constructed I do not remember in retrospect one home being struck by lightning or destroyed in a storm. I do, however, remember one person who was struck by lightning. It was a relative who was straightening her hair on a hot plate and did not realize a storm was approaching the area. She was immediately struck by lightning and miraculously survived to straighten her hair again.

As an adult I discovered that even though I did not like lightning, God in his almighty wisdom has a place for it in the scheme of things. If you were to believe the findings of a 2003 study conducted by Texas A&M professor and researcher Renyl Zhang, lightning is good for the planet. Each year about 77 million lightning bolts strike the United States, and worldwide lightning flashes occur about 60 times per second. Zhang indicated that lightning can be responsible for as much as 90 percent of the nitrogen oxides and at the same time increase ozone levels as much as 30 percent in the free troposphere, the area that extends 3 to 8 miles above the earth’s surface.

I don’t care! I am afraid of it. I remember several years ago visiting Media One (a major cable company at the time) in their Denver, Colorado office to receive a grant related to an inner-city SAT pilot I managed. As the meeting was starting, I could not help but notice from the conference room windows two ominous clouds about to merge. When they did, the loudest clap of thunder I had ever heard happened. Even though I had transportation back to my hotel, at that moment, I made up my mind that I would be spending the night in the office building.

I must’ve embarrassed Atlanta that day. I remained in the office building until late in the evening before being transported back to my hotel.

Do not play with lightning as it is alleged that a lawyer in Shreveport Louisiana, N. Graves Thomas did in 1987. Take cover when you hear thunder. There is a direct correlation between it and lightning. Graves, on a boat, during a storm shouted “here I am.” He was immediately struck by lightning and killed.