July 19, 2012

Tighter Link for Weather and GPS Avoiding 'Lightnin' Strikes'


For those of us in the United States this has been a summer of amazing weather extremes — severe drought over much of the country that is threatening crops, record heat in general and horrific thunderstorms. Driving through a torrential storm last night it struck me (pardon the pun) that it would be great if there was tighter linkage between my trusted GPS system and real-time and real close weather information.

The challenge/opportunity

In the midst of the storm I was attempting to safely navigate news came over the radio that radar in the New York metro area was recording up to 500 lightening strikes per minute. While this was a fact I could confirm by looking out the window, reality was that I had route choices to make. Should I take the fastest route over an old parkway that has a significant canopy of very old trees? Or should I go on a little longer route on an Interstate with no trees? I opted for the latter. The reason was the memory of a report only a few weeks ago that during similar violent weather event the driver of a car on my contemplated route was killed by a falling tree that had suffered a direct lightening hit.

In retrospect, it would have been great if weather information about the location and severity of lightening in the area could have been integrated into my GPS system which could have automatically warned me of the danger that loomed ahead and altered my route.

With the seemingly unlimited number of weather and location-based apps out there I looked for something that could do what I think many of us who live in densely foliated areas would deeply appreciate, i.e., as the popular Rolling Stones hit says, “Give Me Shelter.” Such an app may exist but I could not find it. If it does, particularly for an Android device, please let me know.

I will go a step further. Unlike most of the weather and GPS-based apps which are free, my suspicion is that people would actually be willing to pay for such an app. I realize that having been almost struck by lightning two times in my life, my desire not to make the third time the charm has me probably a bit more paranoid about such things than many of you.

However, as my experience demonstrates, being in an automobile, considered a safe place during electrical storms, may be good protection from a direct lightning strike but it is not protection from the collateral damage of being near an object that has been struck. 


I like being well-grounded not just to personally avoid electrical hazards of all types, but to also have the information I need to make good decisions. As the 1966 hit song “Lightnin’ Strikes” from Lou Christie intones in the embedded video I would like to avoid, “lightning striking, again and again and again.”

Any help would be greatly appreciated.




Edited by Braden Becker



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