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Lightning And Gas Stations Are A Bad Combination

First Posted: Aug. 15, 2015, 6:27 p.m. CST
Last Updated: Aug. 15, 2015, 7:32 p.m. CST
Giant crater after lightning hits Fairfield, OH gas station.

According to ABCnews:

... lightning has sparked a fuel tank explosion that left a crater 40 feet wide at an Ohio gas station. The blast and fire Monday evening prompted a temporary evacuation near the Gas Depot in Fairfield, about 15 miles north of Cincinnati. People nearby described seeing a flash of lightning and then a fireball higher than the trees. The explosion occurred in one of three underground tanks at the property. WLWT-TV reports two customers were at the station, but no injuries were reported.

This is not just a problem for third-world countries and underdeveloped parts of the United States. This is perhaps a problem everywhere there is both a gas station and potential for lightning, which means pretty much everywhere that humans live. Where does lightning occur? According to this NASA map, lightning occurs pretty much everywhere land is; it occurs less frequently in the middle of the ocean since:

The ocean surface doesn't warm up as much as land does during the day because of water's higher heat capacity. Heating of low-lying air is crucial for storm formation, so the oceans don't experience as many thunderstorms [as land].

Fortunately, nobody was injured at this particular Fairfield, OH incident. However, the repercussions of such incidents could be deadly, or worse; being a burn victim is possibly the most traumatic experience that exists. It is the stuff of the Bible that makes God-fearing men fear God--burning in the fires of hell is something we all wish to avoid. Burn victims have to endure the physical pain and live with the fear of reliving such a situation. They may also have an increased chance of experiencing lung damage. Last, but not least important, they may be practically unrecognizable to their friends and family, and must reorganize their self-perception and social relations to deal with such a life makeover. According to this study entitled "Psychosocial aspects of burn injuries":

Compared with the general population, burn patients have a high rate of premorbid psychopathology. Patients with pre-existing psychopathology typically cope with hospitalisation through previously established dysfunctional and disruptive strategies. The most common premorbid psychiatric diagnoses are depression, personality disorders, and substance misuse.
Needless to say, it would be a lot to have to cope with.

What can be done? According to an interview with the Director of Business Development at Jought.com (a startup that emphasizes the use of technology for both lucrative and charitable activities), with the problem at hand, "you can have your cake and eat it too." Jought proposes that we do better; you can have green cake and eat it too. Dr. Seuss would be thrilled. That is, we can harness energy from thunderstorms while saving lives. This isn't just for gas stations. Lightning itself can cause trauma or even death in victims that it strikes. Jought proposes that we install this alternative energy source everywhere there is human habitation and thus risk of injury.

But it doesn't stop there. More than just a humanitarian mission, it saves infrastructure from being potentially damaged. We can nickel and dime it all day and still have more reasons to install "Lightning Absorbers." Even if you simply want to have no interruptions in your radio program during a lightning storm, there is an efficiency gain here, saving millions in marketing and user experience. Or maybe you want to save a few birds on some rooftops. So yeah, you can have both your 10% return on investment and your 200% return on investment, while saving lives, infrastructure, and the environment. Not to mention the price of gas and catastrophe insurance rates for gas stations.

This article was written by Brehnen Wong.

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