Friday, June 19, 2009

Thunder and Lightning - Time for a New Gadget

Bad Weather

I was an AR on a game this past weekend where we had a small storm blow through. We saw it coming toward us and, as is normal for this area, we were on alert for any lightning. Seeing none, we played through. The rain started and got fairly heavy a few times. At the start of the 2nd half, the rain had let up some. 10-15 minutes into the 2nd half, the rain started up again. At one point, a parent told me she saw lightning. I pointed it out to the official doing the game. He asked the other AR as well as both coaches if they had seen it. They said "no," so he continued with the game. We actually heard thunder a few times, off in the distance.

USSF Policy

I'll point out right away, before you send me a scathing email, that we should have discontinued the game as soon as we heard thunder. That was in the back of my mind, but I confirmed it when I got home and re-read the USSF position paper on bad weather. There it is, in black and white:

If you can't see the lightning, just hearing the thunder is a good
back-up rule.
Review this paper if you have not seen it before. It's an important safety rule.

Time for a Gadget

Having realized that I come across severe weather on a regular basis and taking notice of the mention of "lightning detection" equipment in the USSF paper, I decided to do a little searching around and see what these nifty devices might cost someone.

I found there are a bunch of devices available, costing from many thousands of dollars, down to less than $100. Being the "gadget guy" that I am, I decided to give one a try.
I purchased a StrikeAlert Personal Lightning Detector. It cost me about $75, including shipping.

Preliminary Testing

As soon as the device arrived, I unpacked it and read through the instructions. It is very simple to use. You turn it on by either pressing and releasing the power button (silent mode), or holding the power button until the device beeps.

All you have to do is carry it around. It's quite light and has a clip on the back. I haven't tried it yet, but I can see keeping it in a back pocket or giving it to one of your AR's. If it senses a lightning strike, the device beeps (if it is in "beep" mode) and lights a lamp indicating the distance from the lightning strike. There are four ranges on the device. The two most distant have amber lights while the two closer ranges have red lights.

Since we've had a ton of storms blowing through my area, I've had a couple of chances to try it out. I can't yet say that it definitely works, but I can say it's doing something. Last night, I decided to go for a run. I took this gadget as it looked like it was going to rain very soon. Sure enough, I hadn't even gone a mile when the skys opened up. At about 1.5 miles, I heard two beeps, indicating lightning at 12-24 miles. Later on, I heard 3 beeps, indicating lightning at 6-12 miles. I never heard thunder or actuallly saw the lightning, but I will say lightning indications corresponded with an increase in wind and rain. The storm was clearly getting closer.

My preliminary testing says this thing might actually work. That said, would I clear a field based solely on these results? Not likely. I need more testing. I'll post more once I get a chance to test it with visibile lightning.


Boulan said...

I purchased one for the spring 09 soccer season here in NM. To test mine I used it at our soccer complex which has an expensive detection system. This little unit matched the expensive system each time a storm came through. I am pleased and feel a little more secure heading into the fall High School season.

Anonymous said...

Update: You can get this device on sale now at Kim Komando's store at for $59.00