Augers, grain bins and tractors are tools of the farming trade. Unfortunately, they also are common items that get struck by lightning, posing a huge risk to farmers.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, farmers are among those most likely to get struck by lightning while working outdoors. And with thunderstorm season upon us, it is important that farmers take the threat of lightning seriously.
Lightning is the leading cause of weather-related deaths in America. The greatest number of lightning strikes occur in July, with June and August coming in second and third. A majority of lightning fatalities occur between noon and 6 p.m.
In the past 40 years, nearly 400 people a year have been hit by lightning. Of that number about 80 have died. Many others have been left with severe neurological problems.
Experts tell farmers (and everyone else) to go indoors as soon as they hear thunder. If you are able to hear thunder, a storm is within 10 miles. It is important that you avoid all contact with electrical equipment and plumbing, as well. Once the storm has passed you should wait 30 minutes before the last thunder clap before going back outside.
Unfortunately, many farmers do get caught outside during lightning and are unable to make it to safety. If this happens, the National Weather Service advises that these individuals make themselves as small as they are able and have as little contact with the ground as is possible. Squat down on the balls of your feet, tuck your head down and don’t touch the ground with your hands. Right before lightning strikes, people report feeling the hair on their beck stand up.
Many people are surprised to learn that the most common cause of lightning deaths occur as a result of cardiac arrest. This means that knowing CPR can save lives. Contrary to popular believe, it is not dangerous to touch an individual who has been struck by lightning.
And farmers aren’t the only ones at risk, farm animals also are at risk from lightning strikes. Just last month, 32 cows were killed in Missouri by lightning. The veterinarian who examined those cows said that was the most he had ever seen killed by a single lightning strike. Previously, the most he had seen killed was six.
The 32 cows killed were likely huddling together to get out of the rain when the lightning struck. Their owner, Jared Blackwelder of Texas County, said while the cows were not pets he raised every one of them. As a dairy farmer, he interacted with them twice a day and was greatly affected by their deaths.