Weather Week: Game day lightning procedures

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TAYLORS, S.C. (WSPA) – In a previous Back to School Weather Week report, we told you about the dangers of heat exhaustion as school athletics crank back up.

There’s another weather threat school officials keep a close eye on: lightning.

As practices and games take place outside, area schools have people keeping close watch on the weather. One such person is David Webb, the athletic trainer for Eastside High School in Taylors.

“First thing I do is notify all coaches that weather could be imminent. That way the coaches, if they have to, modify practice plans or game plans,” Webb said. “Also, I let the officials know that ‘Hey, we’ve got a shot of weather coming in.’”

The weather can be great at the start of a practice or game. But if storms develop and lightning gets close, it’s time to bring everyone inside.

“Our policy is actually 10 miles. The procedure is to alert and to get all student-athletes, and if we’re in a game situation all fans, into a solid four-walled, grounded building. Second alternative is in the car with the engine not running and the windows rolled up,” Webb said. “Our goal is to have the bleachers cleared and have everyone secure within five minutes.”

Activities are not allowed to resume until 30 minutes after the last thunder is heard.

The odds are, at some point, school events will be impacted by weather.

There’s 45-60 days a year, on average, that any location in the western Carolinas will be within 10 miles of a thunderstorm. In an average year, there will be 6-12 cloud-to-ground lighting strikes within any one square mile area. Also in an average year, lightning is the second-leading cause of storm-related deaths across the country.

Keeping an eye on radar and a lighting detection app, Webb’s role in keeping people safe goes beyond immediate medical needs on the field as he’s alerting coaches, players and fans to seek shelter if necessary.

“One thing that I do like with our policy is that if there is a thunderstorm warning or a tornado watch or warning at all…no outside activities,” Webb said.

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