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Thread: Commuting and coping with thunderstorms

  1. #31
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    Quote Originally Posted by mrkenny83 View Post
    Aren't cars the safest place one can be during a thunderstorm? Because they're "grounded" or something? Wouldn't the same hold true for bikes? Aren't we "grounded" because we have tires on the floor?

    ...Or this one of those tales that old wives used to tell?
    Noooooo! Cars with hard top roof (not a convertible or golf cart) are safe places because the electricity passes around you instead of through you. Just like when it hits a plane. It has nothing to do with grounding or insulation. Car tires are not insulating you from anything. Lightning is 10 million volts at about 30,000 amps and travels 6,000ft through open air. Do you think a 1/4" thick car tire is going to stop it....? The car can get hit. It just protects you. Though you may need to replace some expensive electronics. Seen it, pretty funny.

    On a bike, two things can happen to you.

    1) Direct hit from the main stroke or it's feeders. Pretty much, you're toast.

    2) Nearby hit. The voltage difference in the ground between your front and back wheel, and thereby your ass and hands will create a circuit. You're also probably going to die. This will also happen if you're walking with the difference between both of your feet.

    3) Not-so-nearby hit. Same as above, but not enough to kill you. What doesn't kill you will hurt you. At worst, you'll have lifelong problems. At best, you'll be knocked off the bike and crash.


    The safest place to be is in a building with 4 walls and a roof.
    Last edited by MCL1981; 03-20-2012 at 11:12 AM.

  2. #32
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    Quote Originally Posted by MCL1981 View Post
    Noooooo! Cars with hard top roof (not a convertible or golf cart) are safe places because the electricity passes around you instead of through you. Just like when it hits a plane. It has nothing to do with grounding or insulation. Car tires are not insulating you from anything. Lightning is 10 million volts at about 30,000 amps and travels 6,000ft through open air. Do you think a 1/4" thick car tire is going to stop it....? The car can get hit. It just protects you. Though you may need to replace some expensive electronics. Seen it, pretty funny.

    On a bike, two things can happen to you.

    1) Direct hit from the main stroke or it's feeders. Pretty much, you're toast.

    2) Nearby hit. The voltage difference in the ground between your front and back wheel, and thereby your ass and hands will create a circuit. You're also probably going to die. This will also happen if you're walking with the difference between both of your feet.

    3) Not-so-nearby hit. Same as above, but not enough to kill you. What doesn't kill you will hurt you. At worst, you'll have lifelong problems. At best, you'll be knocked off the bike and crash.


    The safest place to be is in a building with 4 walls and a roof.
    Faraday cages are what allow these guys to be awesome http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fPoomwdNZeY

  3. #33
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    Quote Originally Posted by MCL1981 View Post
    Noooooo! Cars with hard top roof (not a convertible or golf cart) are safe places because the electricity passes around you instead of through you. Just like when it hits a plane. It has nothing to do with grounding or insulation. Car tires are not insulating you from anything. Lightning is 10 million volts at about 30,000 amps and travels 6,000ft through open air. Do you think a 1/4" thick car tire is going to stop it....? The car can get hit. It just protects you. Though you may need to replace some expensive electronics. Seen it, pretty funny.

    On a bike, two things can happen to you.

    1) Direct hit from the main stroke or it's feeders. Pretty much, you're toast.

    2) Nearby hit. The voltage difference in the ground between your front and back wheel, and thereby your ass and hands will create a circuit. You're also probably going to die. This will also happen if you're walking with the difference between both of your feet.

    3) Not-so-nearby hit. Same as above, but not enough to kill you. What doesn't kill you will hurt you. At worst, you'll have lifelong problems. At best, you'll be knocked off the bike and crash.


    The safest place to be is in a building with 4 walls and a roof.
    Great. Now I'm terrified! Wheeeeeee!

  4. #34
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    Well, there is no reason to be terrified. I mean, when was the last time a thunderstorm snuck up on you? They have really loud footsteps .

    And there is no reason to leave work without a 30 second check of the weather on days when we're in the risk boxes.

  5. #35
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    KLizotte is offline I really need to log off the internet and go for a ride.
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    I work in the aviation sector and whenever lightning is seen on radar within the vicinity of an airport all personnel are immediately ordered off the tarmac, no exceptions (so yeah, your baggage may take a while to be delivered). This really screws things up at places like Dallas-Ft Worth Airport (DFW) because they get thunderstorms every afternoon during summer.

  6. #36
    PotomacCyclist is offline I really need to log off the internet and go for a ride.
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    I always check the hourly forecast on Weather.com before heading out on any ride. It's not perfect but it usually gives me a good idea if there are going to be thunderstorms that day.

  7. #37
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    One Saturday morning late last summer I drove out to Warrenton for a ride in some different scenery. It was humid, but cool and I didn't suspect any thunderstorms or bad weather would be around all day judging by the forecast. There was a 30% chance of rain, but nothing severe.

    About 20 miles in I kept on hearing this aggressive rumbling noise, which sounded like when you drop rocks into shallow water and they hit other rocks - like muffled thuds. I've been into meteorology for decades and have never heard thunder like this before. I thought there must have been a quarry nearby or something to make all that noise. It certainly couldn't be thunder! Well, I soon realized that it was thunder and by the sound of it was part of a severe storm heading my way. I quickly checked the rader on my iPhone and saw that this very strange, random storm had made it's way SSW from the Philly area on a Saturday morning. I checked out nearby roads and rode my ass off to the west to get out of its way. Much of the rest of the ride was rainy, but fortunately nothing heavy. I saw at least 20 other cyclists out that day too. Later on I did get stung by a bee in my neck, which if I was allergic to bees would have been a problem, but I made it back to the car in one piece.

    Anyway, thunderstorms are something tourers have to always keep in mind too. When you're out on some country road miles from any town with a storm bearing down it really pays to know the best places to hunker down. My first real experience with this was on my tour last summer. I was riding west across southern PA near Manheim toward a line of rain/storms. As I got closer I continually kept my eyes open for potential places to seek cover if I needed it. Eventually as I got close enough I pulled up under the entrance overhang of a small church. The storm ended up fizzling a bit and passing to my NW, but at least I was prepared if I needed to be. After reading hundreds of anecdotes on this topic I imagine 99% of all home owners would be happy if a cyclist sought shelter at their house. They'll probably even offer you water or snacks.

  8. #38
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    A long time ago when I was 17yrs old, I worked for DEP in CT at a large park and campground. A huge line of storms was coming through, it was really bad. There was waterspout just off the beach. Crap was getting blown all over the place. Hail. The campground was flooding. We were taking shelter under the tables. Out the open door, we see this moron kid riding his bike down the road passed the building. Two of us ran out the door and literally grabbed him off the bike and dragged him inside. Just after dragging his dumb ass inside, the tree right outside got hit by lightning.

  9. #39
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    If you look at the NWS forecast you'll see there's a 40% chance of afternoon thunderstorms today. What you won't get from that is that if there are storms, they may not be the summertime downpour variety. That strong southerly wind you felt this morning (helped me fly up Anacostia River Road) is helping to feed a cold front approaching from the NW.

    From the Storm Prediction Center

    ...THERE IS A SLGT RISK OF SVR TSTMS FROM THE MID ATLANTIC REGION
    INTO CENTRAL KY...

    WATER VAPOR IMAGERY SHOWS A LOW AMPLITUDE SHORTWAVE TROUGH MOVING
    ACROSS THE GREAT LAKES REGION. THE ASSOCIATED SURFACE COLD FRONT
    CURRENTLY EXTENDS FROM NY/PA INTO SOUTHERN IND. EARLY VISIBLE
    SATELLITE IMAGERY SHOWS THAT AMPLE SUNSHINE WILL OCCUR AHEAD OF THE
    FRONT ACROSS THE OH VALLEY AND MID ATLANTIC STATES. MEANWHILE...
    STRONG SOUTHWESTERLY LOW LEVEL WINDS WILL HELP TO TRANSPORT 50S
    DEWPOINTS OVER THE TN VALLEY INTO THE MID ATLANTIC REGION. THE END
    RESULT WILL BE AN AXIS OF MODERATE AFTERNOON INSTABILITY EXTENDING
    FROM CENTRAL PA/VA INTO TN/KY. MOST MODEL SOLUTIONS SUGGEST THAT
    SCATTERED SHOWERS AND THUNDERSTORMS CURRENTLY OCCURRING OVER NY/PA
    WILL BUILD SOUTHWESTWARD WITH TIME AND INTENSIFY LATER TODAY. STEEP
    LOW LEVEL LAPSE RATES...SUFFICIENT CAPE...AND RATHER STRONG LOW/MID
    LEVEL WINDS WILL PROMOTE A FEW ORGANIZED STORMS CAPABLE OF LARGE
    HAIL AND DAMAGING WINDS. THE STORMS SHOULD BEGIN TO DIMINISH SOON
    AFTER SUNSET.

    The mesoscale discussion emphasizes the chance for large hail. Hopefully you wore your helmets today!
    http://www.spc.noaa.gov/products/md/md0371.html


    Now having posted all this info, I think we'll now probably get a few rain showers and maybe some thunder.

  10. #40
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    Quote Originally Posted by creadinger View Post

    Now having posted all this info, I think we'll now probably get a few rain showers and maybe some thunder.
    Got that right, but no complaints here.

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