On Wednesday, a family of four was rushed to the hospital after being struck by lightning on a Wildwood beach. They’re okay, but this incident is a keen reminder that if you ever hear thunder while sitting on the beach to take shelter. Otherwise, you could be a sitting duck.
“Being on the beach, or in a relatively open area, you are one of the taller objects. Lightning tends to be attracted to the tallest point,” said Tom Thunstrom, founder of phillyweather.net. Salt water is also a good conductor for electricity which means that lightning is more likely to hit it, and its energy will travel fast through that water.
You need to be careful even if you’re not in the thick of the storm, too.
“Lightning can travel five, even more miles from the point of the storm,” he said. That can lead to the “bolt from the blue” phenomenon, where lightning will hit from a clear blue sky.
Lifeguards will clear the water during storms, so heed their calls. According to the Associated Press, the family struck on Wednesday tried to take shelter by hiding under a beach umbrella. Grabbing onto a metal rod is not a great idea. Thunstrom says you should find an enclosed shelter, either in your car or in a boardwalk store.
And wait for lifeguards to tell you it’s okay to go back in. As I waited for the North Wildwood Sandblast beach race to start on Saturday evening, I watched lifeguards keep very angry people out of the water.
Lifeguards are there to protect you, so do what they say, especially during a storm.