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WICK WEATHER WATCH: Lightning strikes full of drama and danger

By Keith Banks

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Weather Watch by Keith Banks

Aurora borealis, Wick, May 11, 2024. Picture: Brenda A Sutherland
Aurora borealis, Wick, May 11, 2024. Picture: Brenda A Sutherland

Electrical storms are captivating events to watch but they are also potentially dangerous. Understanding and respecting the hazards associated with lightning is important and may spare you from serious injury or even death.

If thunder is audible, even a distant rumble, you should take shelter without delay, indoors if possible. Lightning can strike up to 15 miles from a storm cell centre.

Before an electrical storm, power surges can be avoided by disconnecting non-essential appliances.

If you are unfortunate to be exposed to lightning outdoors, keep away from trees, poles and metal fences. Squat with your hands on your knees and head tucked between them, above the ground. Avoid lying on the ground.

If you feel your hair standing on end, adopt this position immediately as you are in imminent danger of being struck by lightning.

Ground current is particularly dangerous as it can spread a long distance from a lightning strike along the surface of the land. Indeed most injuries and fatalities involving people and also farm animals occur as a consequence of ground current and not a direct lightning strike.

If someone has been struck by lightning, it is safe to come to their aid.

You can calculate the distance that you are from an electrical storm by using “the five-second rule” - sound takes approximately five seconds to travel one mile. Simply count up the number of seconds between when you see the lightning flash and hear the rumble of thunder, and divide the number of seconds by five.

A review of Wick's historic record for mean air temperature for May showed that May 2024 was the warmest since 1910, and is currently the most warm on record. The previous record for mildness was 10.36C (50.65F) recorded in May 2017.

In terms of precipitation, May 2024 was the most wet since that of 2022.

However, a closer look at the town's archive for rainfall for a series of Mays stretching back to 1910 confirmed that it is presently the 40th equal driest. The rainfall total for May 1930 was identical.

Wick’s mean air temperature for spring 2024 was 8.25C (46.85F). The long-term average value for spring, in terms of the current 30-year averaging period 1991-2020, is 7.08C (44.74F).

Wick’s precipitation total for spring 2024 was 190.8mm (7.51 inches). The town’s long-term average rainfall quantity for spring is presently 154.06mm (6.07 inches).

Wick’s mean air temperature for May 2024 was 11.62C (52.92F). The long-term average for May in terms of the averaging period 1991-2020 is 8.77C (47.79F).

Wick’s average daytime maximum air temperature for May 2024 was 14.0C (57.2F). The long-term average value for the month, in terms of the current averaging period, is 12.02C (53.64F).

Highest maximum air temperature was 20.1C (68.2F), recorded on May 11. The lowest maximum was 10.7C (51.3F), witnessed on May 4.

Wick’s average overnight minimum air temperature for May was 9.23C (48.61F). The long-term average value for this parameter, for the burgh, in May is 5.52C (41.94F).

Highest minimum was 11.1C (52.0F), noted on May 29. Lowest minimum was 7.0C (44.6F), observed on May 2.

The lowest temperature recorded at 5cm over the grass was 4.0C (39.2F), on May 11.

Precipitation was measurable on 26 dates. The total recorded for the month was 38.4mm (1.51 inches), or 77 per cent of the current long-term average amount for May. Wettest day was May 22. The total for the 24 hours commencing 9am (GMT) was 15.2mm (0.60 of an inch).

There were no “days of gale” experienced during the month.

The strongest wind velocity occurred during the hour ending 0000 hours on May 13, when a force 5 south-easterly wind gusted up to 28.8mph/25knots, force 6 on the Beaufort scale.

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