June 20 - 26, 2010, is National Lightning Safety Awareness Week and the city of Rio Rancho encourages residents to adhere to lightning precautions.
“If you can hear thunder or see lightning, you are close enough to be struck by lightning, and you should seek safe shelter immediately,” said James Tobin, chief for the Rio Rancho Fire Rescue Department.
When lightning and thunder is occurring individuals should refrain from park shelters, tents, dugouts, swimming pools, drinking fountains, large trees, and metal bleachers, fences and pipes.
Summer is the peak season for lightning and according to the National Weather Service on average there are 58 deaths each year in the United States because of lightning, with hundreds more permanently injured. Last year, one Rio Rancho resident was killed by lightning and several others were injured.
“It is important to remember that it does not have to be raining to be struck by lightning,” said Tanya Smith, deputy chief for the Rio Rancho Police Department. “In New Mexico, high-based thunderstorms frequently produce dangerous cloud-to-ground lightning strikes without taking on the appearance of the low, dark thunderstorm clouds that many associate with danger.”
The city of Rio Rancho adheres to lightning safety guidelines and procedures when operating city-sponsored programs and events, which includes the development and use of pre-approved lightning evacuation plans, consultation of National Weather Service reports and other lightning and weather-tracking Web sites, emergency operation plans and event delay/cancellation protocols. In addition and through a subscription to an advanced lightning warning system, city staff receives text and e-mail messages when lighting strikes occur in the community.
“For the upcoming Fourth of July Fireworks Extravaganza event at the Rio Rancho High School football stadium on Saturday, July 3, the city will suspend event activities if lightning or thunder is within six miles of spectators,” said Jay Hart, director for the Rio Rancho Parks, Recreation and Community Services Department. “According to city policies, only after 30 minutes have passed since the last lightning flash or sound of thunder would the event be allowed to continue.”
For more information about lightning safety, please visit the National Weather Service’s Web site (click link below).