The lightning capital

Rappler.com
Singapore averages 186 lightning days a year

SINGAPORE – Does lightning strike twice? It does in Singapore.

Singapore has an average of 186 lightning days a year — making it one of the lightning capitals of the world. Due to the tropical weather conditions, each square kilometer of land in Singapore can be struck up to 16 times a year.  

April, May and November are the most lightning-prone months here due to the intense inter-monsoon conditions. During these 3 months, Singapore’s National Environment Agency records an average of 20 thunder days. The lowest incidence of thunder days occurs during the months of January and February.  



Thunderstorms happen throughout the day but peak between 2-6pm.


Singapore-based Rappler reader jarofsalt.com contributed this video clip that was recorded on March 31 at about 1am across the East Coast Parkway of Singapore.

(Video courtesy of jarofsalt.com)

The lightning strikes were occurring over the Straits of Singapore.

Another Singapore-based Rappler reader, Raymund Miranda also contributed a photo taken a few years ago but also from the same general area of Singapore.

photo by Raymund Miranda


Singapore has an average of 0.35 lightning deaths per million people each year (2000-2003), compared to 0.2 in Britain, 0.6 in the United States and 1.5 in South Africa. While lightning-related deaths or injuries are extremely rare, they do unfortunately occur.

Lion struck

Even the famous Merlion statue in Marina Bay was not spared of lightning.
 
A lightning strike damaged the statue on February 28, 2009 sometime between 4 and 5pm. No one was hurt in the incident but the lightning strike and subsequent explosion created a hole the size of a soccer ball, requiring the attraction to be closed to the public for a few days while repair work was completed.

The island state enforces some very stringent codes for lightning protection.

In an article about lightning published on Nov. 22, 2011, Singapore’s The Straits Times reported: “Most public places are protected. For example, devices are fitted to the top of floodlight towers at stadiums. Public pools are equipped with lightning rods and the management is instructed to check the three-hourly storm forecasts on NEA’s website.Buildings, observation towers and other structures meant to house people are also supposed to be shielded by law. Gazebos in parks, for example, have metal roofs and are ‘earthed’ with thick metal strips to make them lightning-proof. To protect children who are too young to understand the risks, the agency and the Education Ministry introduced an SMS alert system in 2007.”

Golf courses have siren warnings and rooftop bars, beaches and outdoor events are also instructed to check on the thunderstorm forecasts an ideally have lightning detection equipment.

Myths such as raincoats or rubber soled shoes as lightning protection are just that, myths. The current involved in a lightning strike is just too strong for these things to protect you.

In the event of a thunderstorm, experts provide the following advice:

If you are outdoors:

  •     Take shelter in a house, large building or car and remain inside for at least 30 minutes after the last thunder is heard
  •     If on the road, stay in or get into a vehicle. Close the windows and do not touch the metal components or the shell of the vehicle; they conduct the electricity to the ground and protect you
  •     Avoid large, open areas and high ground
  •     Spread out if in a group
  •     If no structure is available in open areas, head for the lowest point and crouch down as low as possible, supporting yourself on the balls of your feet with heels touching (Lightning Crouch position)
  •     Remove jewelry and metallic objects on your body as they conduct electricity and can burn you
  •     If lightning strikes nearby, do not lie flat on the ground. The current will travel through the ground and may burn you
  •     Do not stand under a tree. It will conduct electricity to the ground and shock nearby things and people
  •     In open water, head for the shore immediately; If in a pool, get out and seek shelter immediately
  •     Stay off bicycles, motorcycles or golf carts
  •     On a golf course (without any nearby shelter), put down your clubs, take off spike shoes and adopt the lightning crouch position
  •     Stay away from isolated tall objects such as trees, towers or poles
  •     Stay away from metal conductors such as fences, pipes and rails
  •     Do not hold metal objects such as golf clubs, umbrellas or bicycles
  •     Do not handle explosive or inflammable materials

If you are indoors:

  • Avoid taking a shower or bath; plumbing and bathroom fixtures can conduct electricity.
  • Lightning can also get into homes through cables and wires. Disconnect all electrical appliances and avoid touching power sockets during a thunderstorm. Power surges caused by lightning can also damage these items.
  • Don’t use a corded telephone unless it is emergency; cordless and mobile phones are safe to use.
  • Keep away from any conducting path to the outside such as wires/cables and metal pipes that extend outside the structure/building. Lightning can travel through electrical, plumbing and communication reception systems. It can also travel through any metal wires or bars in concrete walls/flooring.

How to help a lightning victim?

The first 4 minutes are crucial to prevent brain damage:

  • People struck by lightning do not carry a charge. It is perfectly safe to touch them.
  • Call for a doctor and ambulance immediately.   
  • It is safe to use a mobile phone, walkie-talkie or any cordless handset. Avoid using a corded handset such as a land line.
  •  If the victim is located in a high-risk area, e.g. open field, exercise caution. Do not put yourself in danger.
  • If there is still a storm, move the victim quickly, if possible.
  • If the victim is not breathing, apply cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) immediately to restore breathing. – Rappler.com
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