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Lightning safety: How close do you have to be to get struck?

Published: Tuesday, August 02, 2016 @ 6:39 AM
Updated: Tuesday, April 11, 2017 @ 10:28 AM

Each year in the United States, lightning strikes an average of 300 people. 

A direct hit by a bolt of lightning kills about 50 people per year. Those who survive a lightning strike – with temperatures that can heat the surrounding air to 50,000 Fahrenheit  – often suffer permanent injuries to the brain, heart or other parts of the body.

While most will try to seek shelter if a thunderstorm is near, sometimes there is little warning that lightning is in the area. What many people fail to realize is that you don’t have to be that near a storm to be struck by the lightning that accompanies it.

>> Got a question about the news? See our explainers here

Here are some facts about lightning and how close you have to be from its source in order to be struck.

First, what is lightning, exactly?

Lightning results from the action of rising and descending air within a thunderstorm as it separates positive and negative charges that are present in the atmosphere. The buildup and discharge of electrical energy between those positively charged and the negatively charged areas create lightning. Lightning goes three ways – between clouds, from cloud to ground, or from ground to cloud. 

What are my chances of being hit?

If you live to be 80, your chances are about 1 in 3,000.

Is it true I can be hit by a lightning bolt even if there is no storm near?

Yes, it is. What happens is this: A so-called bolt out of the blue (lightning on a clear, blue sky day) is actually a cloud-to-ground flash that occurs out of the backside of a thunderstorm cloud, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. That lightning bolt can travel a great distance – up to 25 miles – from the storm cloud. The bolt then angles down to the ground. What makes them especially dangerous is that they do seem to come out of the blue sky, and people are not looking out for lightning if there is no storm visible.

How often does lightning strike and how powerful is it?

We mentioned before your chances of being struck are 1 in 3,000 if you live for 80 years. As a one-time shot at being hit, your chances are about 1 in 240,000. There are 25 million lightning strikes in the United States each year. A typical lightning bolt contains around 15 million volts of electricity.

How do I know when it is time to go inside if a storm is near?

If you can hear thunder, you are close enough to be struck by lightning. Thunder is not possible without lightning since it is caused by lightning. Thunder results from the heated air a lightning bolt creates. The heating of the air (around 50,000 degrees in the “channel,” or path, lightning creates) causes high pressure, which, in turn, compresses the air nearby causing a disturbance and pushing it out in all directions. The disturbance creates a shock wave that becomes a sound wave. That’s what you hear as thunder. It seems to rumble because the process is repeated the length of the “channel.”

I’m inside the house, so, not a problem, right?

Lightning really doesn’t care if you are inside or not. If it hits your house you can be injured. Best practices when lightning is around:

  • Avoid using the telephone or electrical appliances
  • Stay out of the shower or bath – the pipes can conduct lightning
  • Don’t look out the windows or doors – they have metal in the frames  that can attract lightning

What’s wrong with seeking shelter under a tree?

Lightning, generally, will strike the highest structure around. However, you don’t want to be under something lightning strikes. (Remember, that’s a general rule of thumb, not an absolute. Lightning can hit anything.)

But if I have rubber sole shoes on and I’m sitting in my car, I’m good, right?

Ok, forget about the rubber sole shoes, you may as well be wearing aluminum foil as far as the protection you’ll get. And while we have been told that the wheels on a car divert lightning, that’s not exactly true. What will protect you, to some degree, is the steel frame of your car (sorry convertible owners). While it won’t prevent injury, it can provide some protection as long as you are not touching metal in the car.

When am I most likely to be stuck by lightning?

Most lightning strikes happen in the summer when atmospheric conditions make for thunderstorms. Of the 21 lightning deaths in the United States so far this year, 12 happened in July.

The place that receives the most cloud-to-ground lightning is Florida, specifically between Tampa and Orlando. That is the place where lightning is most active, but lightning is also found everywhere else in the United States.

So what should I do if lightning threatens?

Remember this slogan from the National Weather Service:

“When thunder roars, go indoors!” There are about 300 documented injuries from lightning each year.

How can I stay safe from lightning?

Check out NOAA's National Weather Service for more information on indoor and outdoor lightning safety and lightning risks.

 Oh, and, lightning can strike twice in the same place. Save your money on that bet.

Sources: The National Severe Storms Library; NOAA; The National  Weather Service

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California teacher fired after saying military members are ‘lowest of our low’

Published: Wednesday, March 21, 2018 @ 10:59 AM

Gregory Salcido has bee fired from his position as a history teacher at El Rancho High School  in Pico Rivera, California, after video surfaced of him making disparaging remarks about members of the military.
Image capture: Google
Gregory Salcido has bee fired from his position as a history teacher at El Rancho High School in Pico Rivera, California, after video surfaced of him making disparaging remarks about members of the military.(Image capture: Google)

A California history teacher who was seen on video making disparaging remarks about members of the military has been fired.

The Los Angles Times reported that the El Rancho Unified School District unanimously voted on Tuesday to remove Gregory Salcido from his post at El Rancho High School  in Pico Rivera, California.

The San Gabriel Valley Tribune reported that, pending any appeals, Salcido will stay on unpaid leave.

In January, Salcido was investigated by the board after video was released of him telling a class of students that people in the military are “not intellectual people” and “the freaking lowest of our low.” The video, in which Salcido appeared to be reacting to a student wearing a Marines shirt, surfaced on Jan. 26.

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“We’ve got a bunch of dumb (expletive) over there,” Salcido says in the video. “Think about the people who you know who are over there – your freaking stupid Uncle Louie or whatever – they’re dumb (expletive). They’re not like high-level thinkers, they’re not academic people, they're not intellectual people; they’re the freaking lowest of our low.”

The history teacher also appeared to make insensitive remarks about people in Asia.

“We couldn’t beat the Vietnamese – they’re a bunch of people this freaking big throwing rice at us.”

KCBS reported that Salcido defended his comments at a Feb. 13 city council meeting.

“My goal, as it relates to my students, related to the military, is to get them to do everything to get to college,” Salcido said. “It’s not just the military, I don’t want them working at a fast food restaurant either. And any comment related to, is out of context. I’m talking about their academic standing. I don’t think it’s at all a revelation to anybody that those who aren’t stellar students usually find the military a better option.”

The video prompted White House Chief Of Staff John Kelly, a former Marine Corps general, to say, “I think the guy ought to go to hell.”

The Los Angeles Times reported that Salcido, 49, was with his wife visiting family in New York and headed home “under the circumstances,” according to an email from Salcido.

“Because of the many vulgar and violent threats against my family, I do not have any comment on the situation at this time,” Salcido told the LA Times.

Salcido has 30 days to appeal the board’s decision.

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Who is Mark Anthony Conditt, the suspected Austin bomber?

Published: Wednesday, March 21, 2018 @ 9:57 AM
Updated: Wednesday, March 21, 2018 @ 12:07 PM

Austin Package Explosions: Suspect Dead

The suspected Austin serial bomber who apparently killed himself early Wednesday as authorities closed in on him was Pflugerville resident Mark A. Conditt, local and federal law enforcement sources told the American-Statesman and KVUE.


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94 Winn-Dixie stores set to close as southern grocer files for bankruptcy

Published: Thursday, March 15, 2018 @ 7:29 PM

Winn-Dixie Set To Close 94 Stores, Files For Bankruptcy

Florida-based Southeastern Grocers- the parent company of Winn-Dixie, Harveys, and other businesses- said Thursday it’s closing 94 stores as part of a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing.

>> Read more trending news 

Southeastern Grocers said Thursday they reached an agreement with “key economic stakeholders” which lets them restructure financially. They’ve classified the stores that will be closing as “under performing”. 

582 stores will continue to operate under the Southeastern Grocers umbrella. 

“The agreement we announced today is an important step in Southeastern Grocers’ transformation to put our company in the best position to succeed in the extremely competitive retail market in which we do business,” company president and CEO Anthony Hucker said in a statement. 

The restructuring is expected to reduce the company’s debt by more than $500 million.

Three locations in Jacksonville and one in Orange Park, Florida will be part of the first group of closings, the company said. 

According to Winn-Dixie's website, the retailer has locations in Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina and Mississippi.

>> Related: Toys 'R' Us getting ready to close more than 700 stores affecting 33,000 workers, reports say

Traditional grocery stores have faced increased competition from online retailers like Amazon in recent years.

Click here to find the list of all affected stores.

National Content Desk Editor Joy Johnston contributed to this report

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21 states targeted by Russia in 2016 election still a mystery

Published: Wednesday, March 21, 2018 @ 8:01 AM

Reviewing the reaction of the Obama Administration to signs that Russia was trying to interfere in the 2016 election campaign, Senators on Wednesday expressed frustration at the refusal of the Obama and Trump Administrations to publicly reveal the names of at least 21 states targeted by Russian cyber attackers in 2016, arguing there is no reason to keep that information from the American people.

“America has to know what’s wrong,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA). “And if there are states that have been attacked, America should know that.”

In a hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said states which were victimized prefer to remain anonymous, giving no hint that the identities of those states would be revealed any time soon.

“The 21 states themselves have been notified,” said Nielsen.

“But people have to know,” Feinstein countered.

Feinstein also pressed former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, who defended efforts by the Obama Administration to both warn states – and warn the public about the Russian election threat.

“Senator, the American people were told,” Johnson said.

“Not sufficiently in any way, shape, or form,” Feinstein replied.

Johnson acknowledged that an early October 2016 warning about Russian actions – issued both by DHS and the broader U.S. Intelligence Community – did not get the press traction that he thought it deserved, mainly due to other breaking news about the campaign for President on that day.

“It was below the fold news, the next day, because of the release of the Access Hollywood video the same day,” Johnson said, referring to the tape of President Donald Trump in which he bragged about how he treated women, a revelation that roiled the 2016 campaign for the next several days.

At the hearing, Johnson did not mention what else was released on the same day – as just minutes after the Access Hollywood tape was made public, Wikileaks made the first release of hacked emails from John Podesta, a top aide to Hillary Clinton – all of that combining to overwhelm the U.S. government warning about Russian actions.

In hindsight, members of both parties said it was very obvious that – at the time – Russia was actively trying to cause trouble in the 2016 elections.

“Russian government actors scanned an estimated 21 states, and attempted to gain access to a handful of those,” said Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

“In at least one case, they were successful in penetrating a voter registration database,” Burr added.

Burr said his panel’s investigation showed that DHS and the FBI in 2016 did alert states of the Russian threat, but in a “limited way,” which resulted in most states not treating the information as an imminent threat.

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