Fairfax, Virginia $1.80/year Bi-monthly
I. COMMENTARY [by David Hoadley]
“Volunteer storm spotters are dedicated individuals around the country who donate their time
during severe storms to supplement the NWS public warning system. Generally, their goal is
to help save lives in their communities, and -on a few occasions- they have lost their own
lives in the effort. Improved training aids are a must in enabling spotters to perform more
effectively and safely.
“Recently, a training movie was released entitled ‘Tornadoes: A Spotter’s Guide,’ which
represents a big step toward better instruction. The second step -a set of spotter’s slides-
is currently being assembled by the NWS, but the budget for this project is modest. Slides
will be needed of storm structure from around the country. Since the project is in the
public interest, several storm chasers have already donated a few slides each. Other chasers
may be asked to contribute certain slides for this set. Positive response to this request is
encouraged, since our efforts should be directed toward reducing tornado injuries and
deaths.” —Bob Davies-Jones & John Weaver
(Ed. note: Regarding the above, please contact Les Lemon, National Severe Storms Forecast
Center, TDU, Room 1728, Federal Building, 601 East 12th Street, Kansas City, Missouri 64106.
Les is especially interested in slides of east coast storms.)
“I quite agree with your comments regarding interaction with NWS or FAA personnel. I have
visited many such offices around the country over a period of many years. Most important is
to remember that these personnel have a job to do and in times of severe weather are likely
to be under a great deal of pressure. I believe that by being friendly, sensitive to this
pressure, and unobtrusive one can often obtain more information than by being pushy. There
have been a few instances where I have forfeited the opportunity to look at current maps and
hourlies in order to avoid making myself persona non grata. My experience is also that the
probability of problems is directly proportional to the number of persons simultaneously
‘invading’ the NWS office.” —John M. Brown
Storm-Track continues to grow, with subscribers now (including university faculty, military
and NWS staff) in 11 States -Maryland and Nebraska recently added. Note — last issue’s
“Illinois” should have read Indiana. This will be an unusually long newsletter, owing to
inclusion of several timely articles and comments which coincide with the onset of the
current storm season.
Name Address Chase country — range
John M. Brown l403 Clark
(Age 35, married; Employer — Iowa State U., assistant professor in
meteorology; Employer after April 1 – NCAR at Boulder, Colorado in
the Mesoscale Research Section; born and raised in San Diego, Cal.)
Jan Curtis 3288 Page Avenue, Apt. 203N/A
Virginia Beach, Virginia 23451
–(After June l)–LTJG Jan Curtis, USN
Box 12, USNWSED
FPO San Francisco, California 96885
(Age 26, single; Employer – U.S. Naval Weather Service, forecasts
for surface ships along the eastern/gulf coasts -issues gale/storm
warnings for the North Atlantic, etc. -gives live T.V. briefings
to the Commander in Chief of the Atlantic, Admiral Kidd.)
John McGinley 1610 Oakhurst Wyoming to Iowa, S. Dakota to Texas
Norman, Oklahoma 73071
(Age 31, married/3 children; working on Ph.D. at U. of Oklahoma
under Dr. Y. Sasaki; works for NSSL during spring program; previously
6 years as Air Force meteorologist -including 3 under Col. Miller
at A.F. Global Weather Central. Camera: Konica autoreflex and
Nizo S 800 movie camera.)
Randal A. Zipser 2732 Colonial Street, #9 Canadian border to Gulf, Rockies to Miss.
Hays, Kansas 67601
(Age 25, single; Employer – Kansas Department, of Health and
Environment. Began chasing in Oklahoma in 1972.)
III. BULLETIN BOARD/COMMERCIAL MARKET -$- FOR PHOTOS
IV. CAMERA TIPS
How to Photograph Lightning [by Jan Curtis”>
Before describing picture taking techniques, the following list explains the types and
characteristics of lightning forms.
(A) Ball lightning: A rare form of lightning in which a persistent and moving luminous white
or colored sphere is seen: the explanation and even existence of this form of lightning are
yet, controversial. Although as a meteorologist I’ve looked for this phenomena for years, it
continues to be very elusive. I recently corresponded with a fellow weather guesser who did
have luck in viewing ball lightning. He said, ‘As I was driving across the central plains, a
severe thunderstorm outbreak forced me off the road, to seek shelter under an overpass.
During the most intense period of the storm, with continuous cloud to ground strokes
occurring all around me, one particular bolt hit a nearby wood/metal fence. A second later,.
three well defined balls -three to six inches in diameter- were traveling very slowly along
the top of the fence. The color varied from light, blue to light green. The smell of ozone
was almost over powering. The duration of the balls lasted nearly 30 seconds before they
disappeared with an explosive bang.’ I asked him if what he observed may have been St.
Elmo’s fire. He stated that it wasn’t, ‘being in the navy and to sea on and off during the
last twenty years, I’ve seen St. Elmo’s fire and what I saw under that overpass wasn’t
“Reports of sphere dimensions vary from a few inches to a yard. Duration varies from a
few seconds to several minutes. Many reported cases follow a brilliant lightning flash and
may be physiological in nature (after-image). Other reported cases have, however, occurred
without preceding flash. Sometimes more than one sphere is seen by an observer, or a sphere
is reported in the same locality by various observers. They have been reported to vanish
harmlessly, to bounce from the ground or an obstruction, and pass into or out of rooms
leaving -in some cases- sign of their passage such as a hole in a window pane.
(B) Forked lightning (A specialized form of streak lightning): Lightning in which many
luminous branches from the main discharge channel are visible. Such branching occurs in
response to local variations of space charge close to the main channel.
(C) Pearl-necklace & chain lightning: A rare form of lightning, also termed ‘bead
lightning,’ in which variations of brightness along the discharge path give rise to a
momentary appearance similar to pearls on a string.
(D) Ribbon lightning: A term applied to a minor variation of streak lightning which looks
like what would be obtained if a camera were moved sideways while photographing a stroke. It
is possible for the ionized path of the lightning stroke to be blown sideways with the wind
during a multiple stroke flash. A 30-milo-per-hour wind would move air laterally 44 feet in
one second. The second stroke of a two stroke flash may follow the first stroke by perhaps
.07 second, so that the subsequent stroke could be displaced 3 feet from the first. I have
viewed this relatively rare event on several occasions. It is truly impressive, especially
with 3 or more multi-flashes.
(E) Rocket lightning: A very rare and unexplained form in which the speed of propagation of
the stroke is slow enough to be perceptible to the eye. Although impossible to show with a
still camera, a movie camera that runs at 54 frames-per- second could possibly show this. It
seems that this lightning type depends on the characteristic (physical) of the lightning
“The reason why no two lightning strokes are identical is because the cloud’s charge and
altitude, and the air’s temperature, pressure and resistance all vary. For general purposes,
however, we can divide lightning into two general categories –“Hot and Cold.” Cold
lightning is of very short duration but with high current: it has explosive effects upon the
things it strikes. It occurs most frequently on the hottest days and is responsible for the
larger number of multiple stroke.”, (see Fig. 1). Hot lightning has low currents of long
time duration and is more apt to burn the things it hits (see Fig. 2). This characteristic
is very much associated with rocket lightning.
(F) Sheet lightning: The popular name applied to a ‘cloud discharge’ form in which the
emitted light appears diffuse, and there is an apparent absence of a main channel because of
the obscuring effect of the cloud. This is the most common lightning type. Although one
would think that it would not be worth photographing, interesting lightning effects can be
achieved. Strange shadowing and interesting foreground objects will add a moody 3-D realism.
(G) Heat lightning: is merely lightning too far away for the thunder to be heard or the
individual stroke itself to be actually seen. The light from an ordinary lightning flash can
be reflected or diffused by clouds, giving the impression of a broad area of flashing light
(Not nearly as vivid as sheet lightning, hence not as photographable).
“Using any 35mm single lens reflex camera, set your exposure setting to B-bulb and attach a
cable release that is long enough so as not to interfere. Because exposures are taken at
night, owing to better contrast between bolt and backdrop, a good tripod is a must. One can
improvise by resting his camera on the ground or on a car, making certain to steady the
frame while exposing. Typical film for distinct cloud to ground strokes would be High Speed
Ektachrome (ASA-160 + ). These slides prove to be excellent for public viewings. 8″ X 10″
print copies can be made, showing very little graininess. Depending on frequency of return
strokes, distance from storm and precipitation in the air, exposures at f/8 to f/16 and from
10 to 90 seconds will prove interesting. Only through experience will you be certain how
long to expose. A 50mm lens will generally give best results. If the storm is very close, a
wide angle 28mm lens may work out. With sheet lightning less distinct by nature, use
Kodacolor II print film,(ASA 400). Try using plus-x or tri-x black and white film. Exposures
at, f/2.8 to f/5.6 and from 30 to 150 seconds give good results.
Daylight lightning photos are difficult to take because of the great amount of light, even
in the darkest thunderstorms. But since lightning can often be timed on a periodic basis, an
exposure of 1/4 to 1 second at f/11 to f/16 may give you luck. Of course, movies during
daylight hours will easily show you a good bolt, now and then.
In conclusion, every good photo requires 10 bad attempts. However, that good shot will be
worth your efforts.”
(Ed. Note: “LTJG” Curtis will be serving the taxpayers for the next, year at 75 deg E
longitude and 7 deg S latitude somewhere in the Indian Ocean.(on Diego Garcia). He will be
the Officer in Charge of the Naval Weather Service Detachment there. On the way west to
depart these hallowed shores, Jan will be traveling through the Oklahoma area about May 3-6
and would like to contact someone there “about doing some storm chasing.” I’m sure he has
some interesting stories to share about Naval weather forecasting.)
FUNNEL FUNNIES (none)
V. TRAVEL TIPS
Richard E. Peterson, Associate Professor of Atmospheric Science at Texas Tech University has
kindly contributed the following map of Texas Panhandle radio stations which can aid in
chasing. “… often a radio station will have a team of observers who report in live.
Sometimes a station may broadcast live a telephone conversation with the Lubbock NWS radar
concerning storm development.” The Institute for Disaster Research there began storm chasing
2 years ago and plans to be “more venturesome this year,” mainly in the Texas south plains
(Ed. note: I strongly recommend that universities such as this, which sponsor storm chasing
programs, should offer CPR training (discussed later in newsletter) to chasers. These
individuals frequently expose themselves to lightning at times of maximum risk.)
Production note: The May 31 issue may be delayed due to vacation schedule conflicts. Also,
don t be discouraged if your submission doesn’t appear right away, eventually it will.
AM radio stations in the Texas Panhandle. Note: Many of these stations are low wattage and
operate dawn to dusk. Some have extensive programming in Spanish.
VI. FEATURE – Lightning Safety [by David Hoadley]
This subject will be discussed in three sections: Prevention, Physiological Impact, and
First Aid (thru CPR -or- cardiovascular pulmonary resuscitation). My principal sources vere
Understanding Lightning, Uman, 1971, “NOAA,” April, 1976, and “American Scientist,” Taussig,
57 (No. 3) 306-316, 1969. The latter was especially interesting and is highly recommended.
PREVENTION – When in the open: (1) Don’t stand beneath a natural lightning rod; (2) Avoid
projecting above the surrounding landscape; (3) Stay away from long distance conductors such
as metal fences, drainage pipes and railroad tracks; (4) Stay in your car with the windows
rolled up (to encourage lightning passage around the exterior of the car); (5) “In a wooded
area, seek shelter … among a thick growth of small trees” (Uman); (6) “Groups of persons
should spread out -staying several yards apart- so that if lightning strikes nearby, the
smallest number will be affected;” (7) If you must stand outside on level ground, do not
place excessive reliance on the lightning rod effect of nearby taller objects to protect
you. I don’t believe that the state of the art is sufficient to give precisely safe
distances from naturally occurring lightning rods ( trees, hills, etc.). I have often
wondered how close I should be to ensure that the bolt would tag the taller object nearby
but not me. In severe lightning situations, I usually stop within a quarter mile of a hill
or clump of trees, leave the car quickly, and assume a crouch position 20-30 feet away for
outside photography. I have seen lightning strike lower objects -such as a featureless, dry
prairie hillside 40 feet below an adjacent hill top less than 200 feet away. I suspect that
such occurrences are frequent enough to suggest extreme caution. The highest point will not
necessarily draw all bolts. Several chasers have spoken to me about the “cone of protection”
referred to by Uman. He characterized household lightning rods as “almost always” protective
of objects within an imaginary cone of protection (defined as the ground radius from the
rod’s base that is equal to one (British standard) or two (American standard) times the
distance from the base of the rod to its top; i.e. the conservative British rule would
translate to a 45 deg angle from the rod’s top to the ground). However, a distinction
obviously needs to be made between a lightning rod’s conductive efficiency and that of
naturally occurring “rods” such as trees, hills, etc. As a non-meteorologist layman, I would
assume that the less efficient the conductor, the smaller the cone of protection that
“almost, always” protects. Therefore, Uman’s advice should not be taken out of context and
loosely applied to all possible conductors. (8) “If you’re hopelessly isolated in a level
field or prairie and you feel your hair stand on end -indicating lightning is about to
strike- drop to your knees and bend forward putting your hands on your knees. …(In the
past, some authorities have recommended lying flat in this situation, to get as low as
possible, but the International Commission on Atmospheric Electricity of the World
Meteorological Organization disapproves this practice. It recommends kneeling, instead, so
that a low profile is maintained while at, the same time keeping as small an area of the
body in contact, with the ground as possible. The Commission also disapproves lying in a
ditch or hollow where surface water or saturated soil is likely to be a better conductor
…”(NOAA, April, 1976). (Ed. note: What if you had been lying flat on the golf green
illustrated on the cover of the June, 1977 Weatherwise?)
When inside: (1) Avoid using the phone, bathroom, or appliances which can carry a charge
inside along wires or pipes; and (2) Don’t stand near an open door or window since lightning
may follow a horizontal current of warm/moist air. “…’sideflash,’ accounts for a
significant fraction of indoor lightning fatalities,”
PHYSIOLOGICAL IMPACT — “Many people apparently ‘killed’ by lightning can be revived if
quick action is taken. When a group is affected, the apparently dead should be treated
first; those unconscious but breathing will probably recover spontaneously. First aid should
be rendered to those not breathing, within four to six minutes or less …” to prevent
oxygen starvation to the brain and death (NOAA, April, 1976). However, lightning shock can
stop or sufficiently slow metabolism and extend this critical time period from 10 to 20
minutes in some cases, with full recovery still possible (Uman). The heart “almost
invariably starts with a normal rhythm ,” but the respiratory center remains ineffective.
Without oxygen the victim will eventually die, despite a normal heart beat (Heart action
after a less powerful shock – as from an electric wire- may start with fibrillation and
require a second shock from a hospital “defibrillator” to restore normal rhythm. However,
the massive jolt of a lightning strike is essentially like that of a defibrillator, at the
outset (Taussig). Therefore, -and paradoxically- if the victim’s heart starts again, it may
have been better that he was struck by lightning rather than touching a “live” wire.)
A lightning victim may appear dead, without pulse or breath and with blue lips and pupil
dilation. Open wounds may not bleed. The victim may regain consciousness and then lapse into
coma -appropriate CPR measures can again revive him. When the victim regains consciousness,
ha may feel paralysis in the limbs and be unable to speak. Retrograde amnesia may set in.
Paralysis may change to numbness and “tingling” in the limbs for several hours thereafter.
Minor electrocardiogram changes and elevated blood pressure may result for several days.
However, for those who survive, recovery is normally complete. The most common lingering
problems are with the ears and eyes, and vary from incapacity (change of color sense,
blurring, reduced hearing) to permanent injury (blindness and deafness -usually in one
year). Interestingly, burns may heal readily without need for skin grafts or sloughing of
old skin (Taussig).
FIRST AID – Now to the basic principals of cardiovascular pulmonary resuscitation (CPR).
First off, I urge everyone to take a formal CPR training course (I am scheduled to take one
in two weeks). This is not a subject to be taken lightly, nor can the following substitute
for such training. In fact, incorrect, application can kill rather than save the victim.
Also, depending on local “good Samaritan laws,” you can be sued for causing greater injury
especially without formal CPR training (sometimes, even the trained individual will break
one or two ribs when using chest compression). Therefore, the user of CPR assumes a solemn
responsibility. He must be in full command of his own emotions and able to think quickly,
clearly and deliberately. I mention this only to emphasize the risk involved and to insert a
caution regarding the following guidance. It is provided solely for the reader who is unable
-due to time constraints (studies, work, etc)- to take the course before onset of this
spring’s tornado/lightning season. It is offered with the author’s conviction that some
knowledge is better than none. If a fellow chaser steps out of your car for a picture and is
struck by lightning or you come upon a recent victim by the side of the road, it is far
better to know something of how to help than to stand there totally ignorant and do nothing
while a life slips needlessly away. Therefore, the following is presented for possible use,
depending on your own good judgement (The author specifically disavows accountability for
any guidance herein, and the reader assumes total responsibility for applications thereof).
Assuming that you are alone with the victim, the following is presented in ordered sequence.
1. If possible, send for an ambulance and oxygen immediately. Check for unconsciousness call
to or pinch the victim.
2. First, examine the victim for 4-5 seconds and look for breathing -e.g. chest movement, or
listen for air from the nose/mouth.
3. Check for pulse by drawing two fingers along the neck from the “Adam’s apple” to the
hollow in the neck and feel here for pulse. This is preferable to checking for a pulse in
the wrist, since the limbs can be pulseless after a lightning shock.
4. If the heart is beating at a normal rhythm (usual after a lightning shock) but there is
no breath, immediately initiate artificial respiration procedures:
(a) Loosen constrictive clothing (ties, brassieres, etc.).
(b) Place victim on his back and tilt head back so that chin points up.
(c) Open your mouth wide and “lock” it over victim’s mouth so no air escapes. Pinch victim’s
(d) Blow into victim’s mouth forcefully (assumes an adult) with four quick breaths without
waiting for chest to fall, since initial air intake is important. Watch for chest/stomach to
rise, indicating effect. If the airway is clear, only moderate resistance to blowing will be
felt. Then, listen for air leaving mouth/nose to assure unobstructed outflow. Apply
subsequent inflations at about 12 per minute (once every 5 seconds). Continue to listen for
rush of air from victim’s lungs.
(e) When the victim revives, treat for shock.
5. If the heart is not beating, apply the initial four breaths as previously noted, and
check for pulse 8-12 seconds thereafter. If there is no spontaneous start, begin full CPR including
chest compression. Alternate chest compressions with breaths at the rate of 15
compressions and two inflations, then 15:2 … etc. Remember, be sure there is no pulse
before starting. Unnecessary chest compression on a heart already normally beating can
induce fibrillation and kill the victim. Therefore, never-NEVER practice this on anyone!!
Here’s how to do compressions:
(a) Prepare the victim as in 4 (a) to (b).
(b) The exact point to apply pressure is on the lower half of the breastbone (sternum) and
is two fingers above the soft spot in the lower chest where the breastbone ends. Pressure
must be applied here and nowhere else for this to work.
(c) Kneel at the victim’s side. Press down with the heel of your hand at the pressure point,
(X) with a firm, heavy pressure. Lean forward and let, your back and body do the work. Press
down 1- to 2 inches. This compresses the heart between the breastbone and the spine, forcing
blood to circulate. Note: pressure must be applied straight down and not at an angle; angled
pressure is a sure way to break ribs. Also, note that -since hearts may start spontaneously
after lightning shock you should check frequently initially after beginning CPR, in case of
a quick start. This would avoid continuing CPR beyond resump- tion of normal heart action.
(d) Continue until a doctor takes over or person begins breathing for himself. Have someone
else call for doctor or ambulance. If another person can help, one can do chest compression
alternately while the other gives mouth to mouth resuscitation at a rate of 5 compressions
to one ventilation.
Before applying any CPR, be alert to other possible injuries such as skull fractures
resulting from being hurled against the ground or an object by the lightning bolt’s
concussion. Neck and back injuries may also have occurred.