Herrin Installs Lightning Detection for Safety


By Nick Hausen
By Jared Roberts

HERRIN -- Southern Illinois has a history of deadly lightning strikes at high school athletic complexes. In March 2007, Corey Williams was killed by a lightning strike at a Carbondale track meet.

Lightning safety is always a concern, which is why Herrin is taking a proactive step towards safety by installing a new lightning detection system from WeatherBug. The new lightning detection device is being installed at the football field.

"With the sporting events we have outside, practices, consistently something going on," explained  Herrin superintendent Mark Collins. "I want our people to be aware of when lightning is in the area."

High school sports in Illinois are required to be suspended if lightning is detected and cannot resume play until 30 minutes after the last lightning strike. The new lightning detection system sounds a horn whenever it first senses lightning within a ten mile radius of the football field and delivers text alerts to administrators. The horn beeps three times when the lightning has passed, giving the all clear.

"The lightning that flashes in the cloud or hits the ground is emitting a radio frequency and by measuring the radio frequency, we're able to detect down to almost 250 meters away from the strike," said WeatherBug meteorologist Jacob Wycoff.

Lighting can strike up to ten miles outside of a thunderstorm, so detecting a bolt with near accuracy is very important, especially when there's a grandstand full of people nearby.

In addition to installing a lightning detection system, Herrin invested in a WeatherBug observation sensor which can be used by meteorologists at News 3 and in Herrin classrooms as teaching tool.

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