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Lightning and wildfires – Hand in hand hazards

Saturday, June 24th, 2017 5:51am MDT

Wildfires and lightning go hand in hand as half of Colorado’s blazes are ignited by lightning.

Wildfires are not strictly a weather-related threat.  The weather does however play a significant role in starting fires and in the ability of firefighters to battle them.

From the National Weather Service:

PUBLIC INFORMATION STATEMENT
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE GRAND JUNCTION CO
500 PM MDT SAT JUNE 27 2015

Colorado Lightning Safety Week concludes today…with wildfires being the final topic.

During the past week we have presented lightning information and safety rules.  Although wildfires are not an actual weather phenomenon…wildfires are directly related to lightning and other weather elements.

Normally…the wildfire threat in Colorado increases significantly after the middle of June and usually peaks in early July…and remains high through august and early September.  Colorado averages about 2500 wildfires each year.

About half of all forest fires in Colorado are ignited by lightning. Additionally…many rangeland and wheat field fires are caused by lightning. Many of these lightning caused wildfires occur in the absence of rain and are the result of what is referred to as dry thunderstorms.

Lightning is often accompanied by strong winds from thunderstorms. These winds can quickly turn smoldering organic material into a raging fire.  Thunderstorm winds tend to be erratic in direction and speed…posing one of the greatest dangers for firefighters.

Lightning that strikes the ground is usually divided into two categories…negative and positive strikes… Depending on the ionic source region of the thunderstorm.  The negative strikes are far more common than positive strikes.  The positive strikes are more intense and have a longer duration than the negative strikes and are more likely to ignite a fire.  Lightning detection technology provides land managers and weather forecasters with the ability to identify the general location and charge category of each lightning strike.

National Weather Service forecasters help land managers and firefighters by producing fire weather zone forecasts on a daily basis.  Spot fire weather forecasts are also provided for those who work on prescribed burns or specific wildfires.  Forecasters also issue red flag warnings for use by land managers when the combination of dry vegetation and critical weather conditions will result in a high potential for the development and spread of

Wildfires.  Land managers…in turn… Typically inform the general public of the fire danger in national parks…forests… And other public lands.

During periods of extreme fire danger in forests and rangelands…

  • You should avoid being in areas where you might become trapped by a wildfire.
  • You should avoid the use of matches or anything else which could ignite a fire.
  • Make sure that hot parts of motorized equipment…such as mufflers…are not allowed to come in contact with dry grasses or other potentially flammable material.
  • If you become trapped or cut off by a wildfire seek shelter in areas with little or no fuel…such as rock slide areas or lakes.

For more information on wildfires and fire safety…please check out the following web addresses…

Lightning Safety and Wildfire Awareness Series:

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Relief from the heat as Thornton’s weekend ushers in cooler temperatures

Friday, June 23rd, 2017 5:02am MDT

With a reinforcing cold front set to descend on Colorado, we see a big change in temperatures Friday and for the weekend. Friday will seem almost cool as compared to recent days then the weekend will be quite comfortable.

For today we start out with a good bit of cloud cover but should see some clearing late in the day. A few showers of rain and breezy winds will be possible during the morning hours, mainly early. Temperatures today will be topping out in the mid to upper 60s, well below the average of 85 degrees.

Saturday and Sunday look to be virtual clones of each other. We will enjoy mostly sunny skies on both days and both should also see high temperatures in the mid-70s. Have a great weekend!

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When lightning strikes – Rendering aid and the lasting effects of a strike

Friday, June 23rd, 2017 5:00am MDT
Lightning strike (NOAA)

Responding quickly to lightning strike victims is key to helping them survive. (NOAA)

Knowing what to do when lightning strikes someone is critical to helping them survive.  As with many serious injuries, immediate action must be taken.  After the event, lightning strike victims oftentimes face a number of health and mental challenges.

From the National Weather Service:

PUBLIC INFORMATION STATEMENT
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE BOULDER CO
600 AM MDT FRI Jun 23 2017

Colorado Lightning Safety Awareness Week continues through tomorrow. Today we discuss lightning medical issues for survivors.

The facts about lightning strike victims:

In Colorado, nearly a half million cloud-to-ground lightning flashes are documented each year. With millions of visitors and extensive outdoor activities, it is not surprising that, each year on average, three people are killed by lightning in the state of Colorado while 13 are injured. Last year, two people were killed by lightning in the Centennial State while seven were injured.

While any lightning fatality is tragic, injuries caused by lightning can be devastating to both the victim and the family. For those who have a family member or relative that suffers a significant disability from lightning, life changes forever. In addition to the physical pain and mental anguish suffered by the victim and their family, the incident may lead to a loss of income for all involved as medical expenses can drain the family’s financial resources.

If someone is struck by lightning, it is critically important that they receive the appropriate medical attention immediately. Some deaths can be prevented if the victims are attended to promptly. Lightning victims do not carry an electrical charge and are safe to handle. First, check to see that the victim is breathing and has a pulse, and start cardio-pulmonary resuscitation, if needed. Then have someone dial 911. If possible, move the victim to a safer place. Do not let the rescuers become lightning victims. Lightning can strike the same place twice.

Lightning strike victims may face many mental challenges that they will have to live with for the rest of their lives. When the brain is affected by a lightning strike, the person often has difficulty with many of the mental processes that most people take for granted. The person may suffer from short-term memory loss, and may have difficulty remembering new information and accessing old information. Victims may often find it very difficult to carry on more than one task at a time, and may be easily distracted. Their personality may change and they may become easily irritated.

Lightning strike victims often become easily fatigued and may become exhausted after only a few hours of work. This may be because mental tasks that were once automatic may now require intense concentration to accomplish. Although some victims may sleep excessively at first, after a few weeks many find it difficult to sleep more than two or three hours at a time.

Another common long-term problem for survivors is pain.

Medically, pain is difficult to quantify. Lightning strike victims often suffer irreparable nerve damage that causes intense pain that affects the ability to function. Many survivors complain of chronic headaches, some of which are very intense and debilitating.

Lightning Strike and Electric Shock Survivors International is a support group for individuals and families that are struggling with life after a lightning injury. Helpful information is available at their web address: www.lightning-strike.org

In addition, NOAA’s lightning website contains abundant information on lightning safety and can be found at: www.lightningsafety.noaa.gov

Lightning information specific for the State of Colorado can be found at: www.weather.gov/pub/lightning

The lightning topic for tomorrow will be lightning caused fires.

Lightning Safety and Wildfire Awareness Series:

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Thornton’s Thursday brings cooler temps, chance for storms

Thursday, June 22nd, 2017 5:10am MDT

Following a couple of days of extraordinary heat, we start to see a break today. Temperatures will still be above normal but not by a lot and we run a chance of seeing thunderstorms this afternoon, evening and tonight.

We start out the day under mostly sunny skies that will be with us till mid-morning or so. After that, look for the cloud cover to slowly increase leading to only partly sunny skies by late afternoon. In terms of temperatures, a front will push through later giving a much-needed break from the heat of previous days. Highs will top out in the upper 80s, still above normal but much more tolerable. The front will also bring us some breezy winds starting by late morning.

It appears the atmosphere is primed with a good bit of instability and this will give us the potential for thunderstorms beginning in the afternoon and lasting until after dark. Best chances will come after 6:00pm. Some of these will be capable of generating large hail, damaging wind and brief, heavy rain. Keep an eye on the storms with our radar here.

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Indoor lightning safety – Staying safe in your home or office

Thursday, June 22nd, 2017 4:00am MDT

Lightning can cause injury and even death indoors. (Wikipedia)

Certainly the dangers of lightning are most prevalent outdoors and being indoors is the safest place to be when thunder is heard. Even inside your home or business lightning can be damaging and cause significant injury.

From the National Weather Service:

PUBLIC INFORMATION STATEMENT
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE GOODLAND KS
600 AM MDT THU JUN 22 2017

Statistics tell us that we are much less likely to become a lightning strike victim if we are inside a substantial structure such as a home or office building. In 2016, thirty eight people in the United States were killed by lightning, and all of these fatalities occurred outdoors. While nearly all people who are injured or killed by lightning were outdoors, a small percentage of people are injured by lightning while indoors. Therefore, it is important to discuss lightning safety while indoors.

The dangerous electrical current associated with a lightning strike typically enters a structure through wires, cables or pipes that connect to the building from the outside. Lightning can also directly enter into a structure through an open window, door or garage door. Once in a structure, the dangerous current can travel through the electrical, phone, cable and plumbing systems and through metal wires or bars in concrete walls or flooring.

Corded electronic devices are the leading cause of indoor lightning injuries in the United States. These include personal computer keyboards, game consoles, and corded phones. Other injuries have occurred when people were close by to televisions which connect to an outside cable or satellite system. Open windows, doors and garage doors allow for a direct strike to enter a home, so make sure all windows and doors are closed when lightning is occurring. Never watch a lightning storm from a porch or open garage door. There are several You-Tube videos that show people being injured by lightning while they were recording lightning from their porch or open garage door.

It is very important to stay away from any plumbing when lightning is occurring outside. This includes sinks, bathtubs and showers. When lightning is occurring, do not hand wash dishes, do not give kids a bath, and do not take a shower. It is best to wait to do laundry until after the storm goes by as washers and dryers are connected to both the electrical and plumbing systems.

People have also been injured while leaning and standing near concrete in their homes and offices. This is due to metal rebar which is in the concrete, and this metal acts as a conductor when lightning hits the building.

A house or other substantial building offers the best protection from lightning. In contrast, many small shelters such as bullpens, picnic shelters, sheds or tents (no matter what the size) offer no protection from lightning, and should be avoided at all cost.

Here is a summary of lightning safety tips for inside the home:

1. Avoid corded electronics and electrical equipment.
2. Avoid contact with plumbing, such as taking a shower, bathing, hand washing dishes or doing laundry.
3. Stay away from windows, doors, garages and porches.
4. Do not lie on concrete floors or lean against concrete walls.
5. If a substantial building is not nearby, an enclosed car or truck offers excellent protection from lightning.

Below are a couple of web sites that contain additional lightning information:

NOAA’s lightning website which contains abundant information on lightning safety can be found at: www.lightningsafety.noaa.gov

Lightning information specific for the State of Colorado can be found at: www.weather.gov/pub/lightning

The lightning topic for tomorrow will be lightning medical issues for survivors.

Lightning Safety and Wildfire Awareness Series:

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First full day of summer may bring record-setting heat

Wednesday, June 21st, 2017 5:12am MDT

Following on yesterday’s record-setting performance, the heat continues today when another high temperature record may be in jeopardy.

We start out the day with mostly sunny skies and while we can expect a few clouds above throughout the day, they will have little impact on the temperatures. Light winds will initially be out of the southwest, shifting to come from the northeast in the afternoon.

After about 3:00pm into the evening we see just the slightest chance for some scattered thunderstorms but we aren’t expecting much from any activity that does occur.

The real story for the day is going to be the heat. Denver’s record high temperature for today’s date is 99 degrees set in 2007 and our high temperature today is going to come close to matching that mark. Overnight tonight, we will see some relief with temps cooling into the mid-60s.

Our live weather gauges will let you keep an eye on the thermometer.

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Outdoor lightning safety – When thunder roars, go indoors

Wednesday, June 21st, 2017 5:00am MDT
When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors - Lightning Safety Poster (NOAA)

One simple phrase provides the most important safety tip for lightning – When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors. (NOAA)

Statistics provide insight into the dangers of severe weather and lightning is one of the most deadly.  Over the past decade Colorado has been the second deadliest state for lightning and many of these fatalities could have been avoided if the victims had remembered one key phrase: When thunder roars, go indoors.

From the National Weather Service:

PUBLIC INFORMATION STATEMENT
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE GRAND JUNCTION CO
600 AM MDT WED JUNE 21 2017

Colorado Lightning Safety Awareness Week continues through Saturday. Yesterday we discussed the science of lightning. Today we will cover outdoor lightning safety.

Outdoors is the most dangerous place to be during a thunderstorm.

Each year…nearly all people in the United States who are injured or killed by lightning were involved in an outdoor activity. They were struck while working outside…were at or participating at an outdoor sporting event…were boating or fishing. They were struck while hiking…mowing the lawn or simply going to or from their car.   Quite a few were on their own property when they were struck.

Unfortunately…there is no place outside that is safe from lightning. The only safe place to be when lightning is occurring is either inside a substantial building…or an enclosed automobile.

Here are some important things to remember before venturing outdoors…

An informed decision will help you avoid being in an area where lightning is expected to occur.  Before heading out…get an updated forecast. Stay tuned to NOAA weather radio…check national weather service web sites…or access your favorite weather apps on your cell phone for the latest forecast.

In Colorado…it is important to remember that thunderstorms typically develop in the mountains after 11 am.  So it is best to plan your climbing or hiking trip so that you are coming down the mountain by late morning.

If thunderstorms are in the forecast…consider planning an alternate indoor activity or make plans which will allow you to quickly get into a safe shelter.

Once you are outside…keep up-to-date on the weather via your smart phone or portable NOAA weather radio receiver. Check for updated forecasts. Check if storms are near you by checking the latest radar imagery on your cell phone. There are now several smart phone apps you can purchase that show you real-time lightning activity in your area. Do not forget to simply look around you to make sure storms are not developing in your vicinity.

We will now discuss two outdoor scenarios. The first is what to do if you are outdoors and a safe location is nearby…while the second scenario is what to do if you are outdoors and no safe location is nearby.

If you are outside…such as a park…a lake…or an outdoor sporting event…know where the nearest safe location is located at.

A safe location is any substantial building…such as a business…a home…or a church. Any enclosed hard topped automobile also offers excellent protection from lightning. Once you hear thunder or see lightning…immediately stop what you are doing and quickly get to the safe shelter. Do not wait until the rain starts to seek safe shelter. Once inside a safe shelter…it is recommended you stay there for 30 minutes after the last rumble of thunder.

Past history has shown that most people who were outdoors and were injured or killed by lightning had access to a safe shelter nearby.

Do not wait to seek safe shelter when lightning threatens. When you hear thunder or see lightning…it is important for you…and your family…to act quickly.

It is critically important to avoid shelters that are not safe from lightning…including picnic shelters…bullpens…tents and any other small buildings that are open to the elements.

Never…never…get under a tree to seek shelter from lightning.

It is important that all sports leagues and other outdoor groups have a lightning response plan that is understood and consistently applied for the safety of the participants. Part of the plan would include a designated weather watcher at each outdoor event with the authority to postpone or cancel the event due to the threat of lightning. It is also important that people know where to seek safe shelter if a storm threatens. As we have seen recently…the NCAA…the NFL and MLB now delay games when lightning is in the area.

Our second scenario involves what you can do to reduce your chances of being injured or killed by lighting if no safe shelter is nearby.

This situation typically occurs to people who are hiking or camping in the backcountry. Unfortunately…in this scenario…there is not much you can do to reduce your risk from being struck by lightning.

The best thing to do is move away from tall isolated objects…such as trees. Stay away from wide open areas. Stay as low as possible with your feet close together if lightning is nearby. If you are with a group of people…spread out…that way if someone is struck by lightning…the others can offer first aid. If camping in the backcountry…place your tent in a low area away from tall isolated trees.

Remember…when thunder roars…go indoors!

There are a couple of web sites that contain additional lightning information.

NOAA’s lightning website which contains abundant information on lightning safety can be found at…

WWW.LIGHTNINGSAFETY.NOAA.GOV

Lightning information specific for the state of Colorado can be found at…

WWW.WEATHER.GOV/PUB/LIGHTNING

The lightning topic for tomorrow will be on indoor lightning safety.

Lightning Safety and Wildfire Awareness Series:

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Record high temperature set for June 20

Tuesday, June 20th, 2017 5:09pm MDT

Record High TemperaturesWe knew it would be hot today and the proof is in the numbers as Denver set a new record high temperature for the date.

According to the National Weather Service, the mercury topped out at 99 degrees at Denver International Airport.  This breaks the previous record high for June 20 of 97 degrees set in 2007.

Here in Thornton, we almost matched the record with a high of 97.9 degrees at 3:57pm.

There will be no break from the heat until Friday.

Tomorrow’s forecast high of 98 degrees mirrors today’s high and will again come close to the record for June 21 (99 degrees in 2007). Thursday does cool some but with a forecast high of 91 degrees, the reading will still be well above normal for the date (85 degrees).

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Yellowstone Supervolcano Hit by a Swarm of Earthquakes

Tuesday, June 20th, 2017 3:04pm MDT

Yellowstone supervolcano has been hit by a series of earthquakes, with more 30 recorded since June 12. The latest was recorded on Monday, June 19, with a magnitude 3 earthquake striking 8.6 miles north north-east of West Yellowstone, Montana. The swarm began last week, and on June 15 saw a magnitude 4.5 earthquake take place in… » Click here to read the rest of Yellowstone Supervolcano Hit by a Swarm of Earthquakes

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Summer solstice ushers in astronomical summer, longest day of the year

Tuesday, June 20th, 2017 7:09am MDT
On the June solstice, the Earth’s northern hemisphere is tilted at its maximum toward the sun. The result is the longest day of the year for the northern part of the planet. (NASA)

On the June solstice, the Earth’s northern hemisphere is tilted at its maximum toward the sun. The result is the longest day of the year for the northern part of the planet. (NASA)

Astronomical summer arrives in Thornton tonight and with the solstice we will enjoy our longest day of the year.

Summer officially begins at 10:24pm MDT tonight.  The Summer Solstice occurs when the North Pole is tilted at it closest to the sun – 23.4 degrees.  This results in the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere.

Here in Denver the sun rises at 5:32am today and sets at 8:31pm.  This will give us 14 hours, 59 minutes and 14 seconds of daytime.  Tomorrow it will be a bit less than one second shorter than today and each day from now through the Winter Solstice in December will get gradually shorter as well.

At the poles of the globe, the seasonal extremes will be quite notable.  Areas north of the Arctic Circle to the North Pole will see 24 hours of daylight and have a midnight sun.  On the opposite end of the globe, the South Pole will have no direct sunlight at all as they are in the depths of their winter.

Did you know that there is a difference between the astronomical seasons that we are discussing here and meteorological seasons?

Meteorological seasons differ slightly and are geared toward matching the calendar with the annual temperature cycle. This is done primarily for meteorological observing and forecasting and in many ways it is more logical than the astronomical seasons.

For the Northern Hemisphere, the meteorological spring covers the months of March, April and May. Summer brings the hottest months of the year and so meteorological summer is June, July and August. Meteorological fall then is September, October and November followed by the coldest months of December, January and February as meteorological winter.

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