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Police report lightning injures golfers in southern Ontario

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Andrea Bagley
Digital Reporter

Tuesday, June 17, 2014, 1:08 PM - Severe storms pushing through southern Ontario have resulted in multiple injuries at Bethesda Grange Golf Course.


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York Regional Police say four people were injured and were sent to hospital after lightning struck the area. 

One of the victims may have critical injuries, police say, while the other three victims are in "stable" condition.

According to Brett Soderholm, a meteorologist at The Weather Network, the biggest concerns with these storms are frequent lightning, localized flooding and sudden loss of visibility with heavy downpours.

The first round of storms pushed into the Bruce Peninsula area through the morning hours, prompting Environment Canada to issue a severe thunderstorm watch for the region. Severe thunderstorm watches and warnings quickly followed for several communities, including the city of Toronto.

The "main event" however, should occur mid to late afternoon.

"Everything is 'ripe' for severe storms to develop and what happens through the morning hours will play a big role in how the afternoon pans out," Soderholm adds.

When it comes to staying safe from lightning while outdoors, Shaylea Ostapowich, The Weather Network's manager of meteorological networks, says it's best to avoid hiding under trees or near tall structures.

"Don't stand under a tree -- it's a conductor. It's called side splash, and it's when the current flows through the tree and uses you as a short circuit to go into the ground," said Ostapowich. "Lightning chooses the shortest path. When outdoors, seek shelter in an enclosed building. The lightning crouch is not enough," she adds.

According to Environment Canada, lightning kills approximately 10 Canadians each year and injures approximately 100 to 150 others. One of the most important things to remember is to refrain from being the highest point in an open area. This is especially important in open fields when camping, and while doing outdoor activities like golfing or jogging. Staying at or below ground level is ideal when outdoors, provided that your location is not near a body of water.

Here are some tips that can help keep you safe, courtesy of The Weather Network and the Canadian Red Cross:

INDOOR LIGHTNING SAFETY TIPS

  • Stay away from windows.
  • Unplug appliances.
  • Do not use the telephone.
  • Avoid running tap water.

OUTDOOR LIGHTNING SAFETY TIPS

  • Try to reach a safe building or vehicle (Picnic shelters, dugouts and sheds are NOT safe).
  • Avoid high ground, water, tall, isolated trees and metal objects such as fences or bleachers.
  • If you are out on the water, get to land and find shelter immediately.

IF SOMEONE IS STRUCK BY LIGHTNING

  • Call for help / dial 911.
  • The injured person has received an electrical shock and may be burned or have other injuries.
  • People who have been struck by lightning do not retain an electrical charge and can be handled safely.
  • Give first aid. If the heart has stopped beating, a trained person should give CPR.

Environment Canada offers a 30-30 rule as well. They say if you can count 30 seconds or less between seeing a lightning flash and hearing the thunder, take shelter and stay there until 30 minutes after you last hear thunder. 

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