Last updated: February 16. 2013 2:17PM - 222 Views

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A GREATER respect for Mother Nature – and possibly a better storm-warning system – might have spared nine people at Pocono Raceway the agony of being injured by lightning and prevented the death of a Moosic father.

Instead, 41-year-old Brian Zimmerman leaves behind a wife and three children. Several other victims of the electrical storm that prompted an early end to Sunday's NASCAR race presumably will carry the physical and emotional scars for many years, perhaps their entire lives.

Authorities should question exactly when track officials first announced that threatening thunderstorms were approaching the Long Pond venue, and whether the tens of thousands of people in attendance were able to hear the public address system over the din of roaring engines and whirring tires. The track issued weather alerts via Twitter and Facebook, including one urging fans to "seek shelter."

Did attendees of the race respond appropriately? Could more have been done to protect the public? That will be debated, and lawsuits probably will ensue.

Regardless, Sunday's tragic incident in Northeastern Pennsylvania serves as the latest reminder that your personal safety is ultimately your business – whether in a movie theater, at a rock concert or rock climbing. Know the risks. Stay alert. And if needed, react.

While Florida is the most lightning-prone state, Pennsylvania typically ranks among the top 10 in terms of annual deaths and injuries. Among the most vulnerable are outdoorsy types: hikers, bikers, boaters, swimmers, golfers, motorcyclists, even farmers. If you're among them, keep an eye to the sky, especially during the summer, and take advantage of access to radar technology and text alerts.

Similarly, everyone should heed this advice from the lightning safety specialists at the National Weather Service: "When thunder roars, go indoors."

And while you might consider lightning strike survivors "lucky," keep in mind that victims sometimes cope with long-term symptoms such as dizziness, depression, muscle spasms, memory problems and hearing loss. Respect electrical storms; they can be dazzling – and extremely dangerous.

Be smart, be safe

Get lightning safety advice from the National Weather Service at www.lightningsafety.noaa.gov.

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