Hey Blue! Why did the game get stopped with only thunder?

By Bob Downey, Hanover LL UIC 2014

I will be blunt on this one.  Who wants the responsibility of killing or serious hurting someone because of a game?  Who want to take that gamble?   If you do, then you need your head examined. 

Please do not hassle anyone who pushes for the early suspension of play due to potential lightning strike risks.

In fact, PRESSURE coaches and umpires to stop the game as soon as possible when the following conditions exist.   I know personally, I have been caught in situations where I am pressured to keep the game going when I know better.  I wish I could tell you that I always did the right thing. Other times, I have been pressured to end it early and that is all it took for me to do what I already knew was right.    However, I have redoubled my resolve and will continue to stress to the coaches, umpires, and board members for the need to place safety above the game.

The following information is take from Little League International, National Weather Service, and NOAA.

LIGHTNING Safety Guidelines

According to the National Weather Service, an average of 73 people are killed by lightning each year and hundreds more are injured, some suffering devastating neurological injuries that persist for the rest of their lives. A growing percentage of those struck are involved in outside recreational activities.

People often lack adequate knowledge of thunderstorms and lightning to make educated decisions on when to seek safety. Without knowledge, their decisions on personal experience and, sometimes, on the desire to complete the activity.

Due to the nature of lightning, personal experience can be misleading.

Not wanting to appear overly cautious, many people wait far too long before reacting to this potentially deadly weather threat. The safety recommendations outlined here are based on lightning research and the lessons learned from the unfortunate experiences of thousands of lightning strike victims.

There are two types of lightning flashes, ‘negative’ and ‘positive.’ Both types are deadly. Negative flashes occur more frequently, usually under or near the base of the thunderstorm where rain is falling.  In contrast, positive flashes generally occur away from the center of the storm, often in areas where rain is not falling. There is no place outside that is safe in or near a thunderstorm. Consequently, people need to stop what they are doing and get to a safe place immediately.

Small outdoor buildings including dugouts, rain shelters, sheds, etc., are NOT SAFE. Substantial buildings with wiring and plumbing provide the greatest amount of protection. Office buildings, schools, and homes are examples of buildings that would offer protection. Once inside, stay away from windows and doors and anything that conducts electricity such as corded phones, wiring, plumbing, and anything connected to these. A hardtopped metal vehicle with the windows closed provides good protection. Occupants should avoid contact with metal in the vehicle.

 When should activities be stopped?

The sooner activities are stopped and people get to a safe place, the greater the level of safety. In general, a significant lightning threat extends outward from the base of a thunderstorm cloud about 6 to 10 miles. Therefore, people should move to a safe place when a thunderstorm is 6 to 10 miles away and allow time to get everyone to a safe place.

 Here are some criteria that could be used to halt activities.

1. If lightning is observed.

2. If thunder is heard. Thunder can usually be heard from a distance of about 10 miles provided that there is no background noise.  If you hear thunder it’s a safe bet that the storm is within 10 miles.

3. If the time between lightning and corresponding thunder is 30 seconds or less. This would indicate that the thunderstorm is 6 miles away or less.  In addition to any of the above criteria, activities should be halted if the sky looks threatening. Thunderstorms can develop directly overhead and some storms may develop lightning just as they move into an area.

When should activities be resumed?

Because electrical charges can linger in clouds after a thunderstorm has passed, experts agree that people should wait at least 30 minutes after the storm before resuming activities.

Again, please be supportive and encourage umpires and coaches to do the right, the safe thing.