Monsoonal thunderstorm season starts at Edwards

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- With summer already here, it means the start of thunderstorm season for the 412th Operations Support Squadron Weather Flight. 

In the summer, the wind flow in Southern California can shift to a southeast to southerly directional flow. This flow brings tropical moisture from the Gulf of Mexico and Gulf of California into Southern California. This tropical moisture, combined with our intense desert heat plus mountainous terrain, aids at producing afternoon and evening scattered thunderstorms throughout the Antelope Valley. 

With thunderstorm activity in the forecast, the 412th OSS will issue weather watches and warnings for Edwards. 

A "weather watch" is a special notice provided to supported agencies alerting them of a potential for hazardous weather conditions of such intensity as to pose a hazard to life or property. There are three weather watches for Edwards concerning thunderstorms and lightning. They are issued for the potential for thunderstorms and lightning within 25 nautical miles of the Air Force Research Lab, within 20 nautical miles of the Edwards Air Traffic Control Tower and within five nautical miles of AFRL and the control tower. 

A "weather warning," on the other hand, is issued when a hazardous weather or hydrologic event is occurring, is imminent or has a very high probability of occurring. A warning is used for conditions posing a threat to life or property. There are four weather warnings for Edwards concerning thunderstorms and lightning. They are issued for thunderstorms and lightning within 25 nautical miles of AFRL, 20 nautical miles of Edwards, 10 nautical miles of AFRL and five nautical miles of AFRL and Edwards. 

A nautical mile is 6,076 feet while there are 5,280 feet in a statute mile. 

If there is thunderstorm activity occurring at or near Edwards, the weather station becomes a very busy place because it issues these numerous watches and warnings for dangerous weather conditions. 

Lightning is the number one cause of weather-related deaths in the United States. On average, 66 people are killed by lightning every year with more than 100 seriously injured. 

Keeping the following six items in mind this summer will help to keep you safe:

  • Plan: Plan outdoor activities to avoid thunderstorms. Know the latest weather forecast.
  • 30-30 Rule: If the time between lightning and thunder is 30 seconds or less, go inside. Stay inside 30 minutes or more after the last thunder is heard.
  • Safe Places: Large, fully enclosed buildings with wiring and plumbing provide good lightning protection. Vehicles with solid metal roofs and solid metal sides give some protection.
  • Indoor Safety: Don't use corded telephones. Keep away from electrical appliances and wiring. Stay away from plumbing -- don't take a bath or shower.
  • Outdoor Safety: Avoid elevated places and open areas (golf courses, sports fields and beaches), water (swimming, boating and fishing) and tall objects. Do not go under trees. Allow time to get to safety. Do not use open structures (picnic pavilions and rain shelters).
  • First Aid: If someone is struck by lightning, start performing cardiac pulmonary resuscitation or rescue breathing immediately. Have someone call 9-1-1.
Edwards' thunderstorm season peaks in August and winds down in early to late October. As with all thunderstorms and lightning, people should take appropriate safety precautions and be prepared for this type of weather during the summer months. 

For more information on lightning safety, visit the National Weather Service Web site at www.lightningsafety.noaa.gov

(Phil Harvey, 412th Operations Support Squadron, contributed to this article)