The capital of São Paulo will have more than 400 blocks at this year’s street Carnival, in processions with thousands of revelers throughout all regions of the city. Despite the joy, relaxation and music that liven up the party, participants also need to be aware of the dangers of being exposed to storms, especially the risks posed by lightning.
The forecast of the CGE (Climate Emergency Management Center), from the City of São Paulo, is that the entire holiday will be sunny, with a lot of heat and humidity, a favorable scenario for the well-known late afternoon rains, always with the possibility of lightning strikes.
According to Elat (Atmospheric Electricity Group), from Inpe (National Institute for Space Research), from 2013 to 2022, 835 people lost their lives in Brazil due to electrical discharges.
According to another survey by the same group, in 20 years (2000 to 2019), 43% of lightning deaths in the country occurred in the summer. And the state with the highest number of fatalities is São Paulo, with 327 in this period.
Statistics show that for every 50 lightning deaths in the world, 1 is in Brazil, the
country that is the world champion in terms of lightning incidence, hit by 78 million lightning strikes per year.
Elat highlights that lightning can happen shortly before the rain starts or in the final stage of the storm. Therefore, the ideal is to seek shelter as soon as you see heavy clouds in the sky or hear thunder, which signals the beginning of the storm.
“Summer storms are a recurring phenomenon, characterized by intense winds and abundant precipitation. These weather conditions, often accompanied by thunderstorms and lightning, present significant risks to public safety. Awareness and the adoption of preventive measures are essential to minimize potential damage and guarantee everyone’s safety”, says Captain André Elias dos Santos, spokesman for the Fire Department.
Another concern for experts is that research already indicates an increase in the incidence of lightning in urban areas, due to the increase in temperature (a phenomenon known as heat island) and pollution.
The presence of lightning rods on top of buildings helps prevent lightning from falling directly on revelers, but there is still danger in the indirect effects of atmospheric discharges, such as downed power lines, fire and energization of metal poles.
In 2018, student Lucas Antônio Lacerda da Silva, aged 22, died after being electrocuted when he leaned against a pole at the Acadêmicos do Baixo Augusta block parade. That case was not caused by lightning, but rather by the energization of a security camera installation. However, this can also occur in the event of a lightning strike during rain.
“Open places, such as squares, fields, avenues and streets without any type of protection are extremely dangerous during heavy rain with lightning and thunder”, warns Juliano Gonçalves, specialist and director of the cable division at the company Megger Brasil.
How to protect yourself from rays
1. If possible, do not go outside or remain outside during storms unless absolutely necessary. In these cases, seek shelter in the following places:
- Non-convertible cars, buses or other non-convertible metal vehicles;
- In houses or buildings, preferably with lightning protection;
- In underground shelters, such as subways or tunnels, in large buildings with metallic structures, or in closed metallic boats or ships.
two. If you are indoors, avoid:
- Use a wired telephone or cell phone connected to the mains (use cordless phones);
- Stay close to sockets and pipes, windows and metal doors;
- Touching any electrical equipment connected to the mains.
3. If you are on the street, avoid:
- Hold long metal objects, such as fishing rods and tripods;
- Fly kites and model airplanes with thread;
- Horseback riding.
4. If possible, avoid the following places that may offer little or no protection from lightning:
- Small unprotected buildings, such as barns, tents or shacks;
- Vehicles without a top, such as tractors, motorcycles or bicycles;
- Park near trees or power lines.
5. If possible, also avoid certain locations that are extremely dangerous during a storm, such as:
- Tops of hills or mountain ranges;
- Tops of buildings;
- Open areas, football or golf fields;
- Open parking lots and tennis courts;
- Proximity to wire fences, metal clotheslines, overhead lines and rails;
- Proximity to isolated trees;
- Tall structures, such as towers, telephone lines and electrical power lines.
6. If you are in a place without shelter nearby and you feel that your hair stands on end, or that your skin begins to itch, be alert, as this may indicate that lightning is about to strike. In this case, kneel down and bend forward, placing your hands on your knees and your head between them. Don’t lie down.
Source: ‘Lightning Protection in Brazil’ booklet, 2020, from Elat/Inpe