Lighting Hits and The Weather Stick

May 21, 2018

On your "WBRZ App," you may hear... "Lightning has been detected in your area..." We’ve presented numerous columns on human lightning rods. On September 21, 1946, in Kenton, Ohio, Charles Brown was bonked by a lightning bolt for the tenth time while visiting the public library.  The Almanac of the Infamous, Incredible and Ignored reports that Roy Cleveland Sullivan, a forest ranger from Waynesboro, Virginia, was zapped seven times within a 36-year-period.  This included episodes while on duty in a fire lookout tower when he was popped in his toenail while other times included scorched eyebrows, shoulder burns and hair fire. Carl “Sparky” Mize was hit four times when the first occasion occurred while riding a bull in the rodeo circuit. He was also “bolted” when lightning ricocheted into the handle of his pick-up truck. A “weatherstick” is made from a branch that was once attached to a portion of a tree trunk. Traditionally the balsam fir tree was used with the bark stripped from the stick allowing it to bend.  If the stick bent skyward, fair, dry weather was expected and should it bend toward the ground, foul, wet weather could be expected.  The stick was usually fifteen inches long and pencil thin and surprisingly displayed some assemblance of accuracy.  As in previous articles the reason the stick bent was due to relative humidity. Coniferous and other softwood trees such as pine or spruce were composed of two different kinds of wood. Similar to the Rittenhouse Hygrometer, the top contains plain wood while the bottom is compressed wood. The stick moves because the wood on the bottom contracts lengthwise more than the top and it bends down.  The opposite occurs when relative humidity rises towards its original position.

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