Tuesday, April 05, 2005


Travis wrote regarding the bicycle commuting piece: “Reading the posts at Bike Forums helped answer the questions I had before I began commuting a year ago.” I haven’t been to the site yet, so any other feedback is welcome, as always.

A note about the ‘comments’ field: When I receive an email sent via ‘comments’, it doesn’t include a return address. I admit that I’m fairly new at blogging, so bear with me if I make some mistakes. If you want a reply, please include an address.

Tuesday, April 5, 2005

Last night’s weather report called for a 70% chance of rain today, and the current outlook calls for severe weather through the evening. Welcome to Oklahoma in the springtime!

I’ve lived here since 1987, and I’ve never seen a tornado, nor do I wish to do so. Spring storms always bring the possibility of tornadoes. When the weather turns nasty, I have a scanner tuned to the local police frequencies as well as the amateur frequencies used by the weather spotters. Doppler radar is a wonderful tool, of course, but it’s line-of-sight. Radar pulses travel in a straight line, so due to the curvature of the Earth the beam is farther from the ground as the range increases. And the ground is definitely where the action is when a tornado descends! Radar is an early detection system, but a spotter under a thunderstorm can be extremely valuable too.

What does all this have to do with cyclists? One word – lightning. OK, maybe three words – lightning and high winds. Wait! That’s FOUR words! Never mind.

Don’t think that your tires will protect you from a lightning strike. Would a lightning bolt that’s traveled thousands of feet through the air be deterred by a fraction of an inch of rubber? Not likely. You’re safer inside a car because lightning flows over the outside of the car body due to ‘skin effect’. On a bicycle, the only skin is yours!

Thunderstorms produce some high winds as ground level air gets sucked up by thermals. The cross winds can be fierce! Worse, a microburst can produce extremely high winds in a mater of seconds. A microburst is almost like a big drop of cold, dense air that hits the ground and splatters. The damage effects can mimic a tornado.

How can a cyclist deal with these conditions? Don’t get caught in the open. Use a radio scanner, television weather, NOAA weather radio, email alerts, or telephone alerts to keep abreast of changing conditions.

Now, having said that, I have to mention that we had a sever storm watch here in Tulsa this afternoon, and of course, the storm hit about 5 minutes before I was supposed to go home. I waited about 45 minutes before leaving and I got soaked.


Blogger Travis said...

Ed, I just wanted others to know about a resource that helped me become a commuter. I used to do some blogging, but it felt like I was shouting down a well and getting no feedback, so I like to chime in to let you know you are being read.

10:17 PM  
Blogger George said...

I've been caught in a few storms and have learned my lesson after nearly being struck by lightning..............stay the hell home when there is bad weather being forecast.

4:32 AM  

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