How one group predicts lightning out of the blue - WBTV 3 News, Weather, Sports, and Traffic for Charlotte, NC

How one group predicts lightning out of the blue

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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) -

A nine-year-old boy who was struck by lightning Wednesday on an open field at Johnson C. Smith University is in critical condition.

The 911 call, which was released Thursday, sheds light into how it happened. The caller tells the dispatcher, "My younger brother got hit by lightning."

The dispatcher asked, "Is he connected to any power source?

She responded, "No, we were in the field throwing javelin and he just got struck."

The boy who was struck was not part of any hosted university event. A spokesperson with Johnson C. Smith University said they do not have a lightning prediction system for these fields.

She said there wasn't a lot of lightning in Charlotte and it came out of nowhere. When a storm is coming you might hear thunder first or you might not.

"Some coaches would try to keep playing," said John Duncan, the treasurer for the Matthews Athletic Recreation Association (MARA).

At MARA they don't want to leave it up to a person to decide when it's not safe to be playing. Duncan points to the alarm system they have in place.

"It doesn't wait for lightning it senses the conditions and if the conditions are right. It will go off," said Duncan.

They say four years ago the board made the decision. And sometimes the alarm can go off without a drop of rain falling.

"You set it for different ranges," said Duncan.

Duncan explained that the Thorguard Lightning Prediction System they have in place is set for a three mile radius around their 27 acres of fields.

"Everybody's got to hear it," said Duncan as a loud blaring noise goes off.

He said the rule is when the alarm sounds people have to seek shelter immediately and to avoid the fields, bleachers, open areas, field lighting poles, and trees. He said after the hazard passes it can take about 30 minutes for the all clear.

"Almost everybody likes it except you get the far off storm that triggers it everybody is sitting around here and nothing is happening," said Duncan.

He said sometimes people get upset about postponing the game but the majority understand why the system is in place.

The system they put in place cost about $8,000 to install and $500 to maintain each year. It sounds cliche but they'd rather be safe than sorry.

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