Friday, August 29, 2008
Lessons learned from summer’s storms
While most residents in Carlisle were not particularly bothered by this summer’s ample supply
of thunderstorms, the noise and lightning can be unsettling for some, especially small children or pets. Many Carlisle parents have learned to cope with these fears.
Children who are frightened during storms will often follow the lead of their parents, suggested parent Don Rober. He confesses to be a lightning lover. “Me, personally, I think it is neat,” but said that his younger son Vanthy, who will be a third grader next month, “doesn’t really like the lightning.” Rober teaches storm safety to his children, “Generally, my message is, come on inside and everything will be fine.” He said his nonchalant approach defuses his son’s concerns. He has taught Vanthy to count the seconds between lightning and thunder, with five seconds for each mile. “If we lose power, I use humor to defuse the situation.”
Giving scientific information to children can be helpful as a distraction. Parents can discuss how lightning strikes occur and how to follow safety rules. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) notes that lightning is attracted to metal, which includes golf clubs, umbrellas, and metal signs such as the one at the Carlisle Castle that was hit recently. Lightning is attracted to the tallest object; however, it can hit short objects as well (tents, shorter trees, people). Indoors in a house or car is the safest place during a storm.
Parent Sandy Nash agrees with Rober on the use of humor, and she also suggested using games to distract worried children, though her son Gardner, who is entering the sixth grade, is older and less worried about lightning and thunder.Nash says her family tries to turn stormy weather “into something that is fun.” During the storm on August 10, her side of Concord Street lost power for two to three hours. Her son helped find every candle in the house. They set up a whole group of candles, ate dinner, and played games by the flickering candlelight. She said Gardner “loved the excitement of it all.”
Dogs, cats and other pets can also be bothered by thunderstorms. Dog owner and parent Brenda Hicks says while her children are fine during storms, their dog Otis becomes a nervous wreck when he hears thunder. When thunder rumbles she has to make sure Otis is inside, since he once ran off during a storm. He usually can be found hiding in a laundry basket.
Carlisle resident Priscilla Stevens said her cats look startled when they hear thunder. They remain close to her, and become more affectionate. Her dog, which passed away a few years ago, used to “hide under things or stay close to us. We would massage her belly and she would be fine.”
Veterinarian and Carlisle resident Dr. Tiffany Rule noted dogs can have severe reactions to storms. She said pet owners should provide their animals with a place to hide. “They should close the blinds and muffle the sounds,” she said. But some pets such as dogs become aggressive when stressed by storms, destroying furniture or jumping through plate glass windows. She suggested those pets might need medical therapy, “with proper lab work ahead of time.” Some dogs may be treated with anti-anxiety medication for the entire summer. “That really can help,” she said. In addition to medication, dogs can be treated by noise desensitization using lights, treats, and games. She said pet owners should consult their veterinarian first before considering any treatment.
Though Rule said horses are “not my field,” she suggested keeping them in their stalls during a storm. Some larger pet birds such as parrots can become distressed, but can be comforted by a cover thrown over their cage. ∆
© 2008 The Carlisle Mosquito