Lightning detection system puts Seminole ISD at the forefront of safety and technology

Published: Apr. 22, 2015 at 10:41 PM CDT|Updated: Oct. 21, 2015 at 11:29 PM CDT
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SEMINOLE, TX (KCBD) - Seminole High School Girls Athletic Director Leland Bearden oversees outdoor practices for hours every day, but he rushes his teams inside the moment he hears a blaring sound.

“It allows us to get them off the field, get them out of harm's way, and kind of gives us a guide of ‘Are we going to play this game tonight or are we going to schedule?'” Bearden said.

Inside the girls' field house, right past the Laundry Room, sits Seminole Independent School District's “WeatherBug” system. Between the hours of 8 a.m. and 10 p.m. from Monday through Saturday, the system uses data from the National Weather Service to detect lightning inside storm clouds and sound off the horn right above it.

“With the horn – where it's located – all of the surrounding houses in that area of town will be able to hear the alert, not just our athletic fields,” Seminole ISD Director of Operations Jesse Greenfield said.

Seminole ISD is the only district in our area that has a lightning detection system as part of their severe weather safety plan. Seminole ISD had it installed last fall and began using it a few weeks ago.

In the past, coaches had to use handheld lightning detectors that were not as accurate and took much longer to spot lightning.

“When it comes to lightning and safety, every second that you have could be very crucial,” Seminole ISD Safety Coordinator Cary Moring said. “The sooner that you get an alert, the faster you take action, [and] the more likelihood that you can save some lives.”

The system also comes with a WeatherBug app that sends out text message alerts and gives an “all clear” signal 30 minutes after lightning strikes. The text messages lists information like the lightning's distance, its longitude and latitude and the time it hits.

After learning about WeatherBug, Seminole ISD applied for and received a $12,000 grant. The district shouldered a difference of about $7,000 – an investment that they said was worth every penny.

“The dollars spent by the district is nothing in relation to the safety of not just the students, [but] the staff, the fans, the parents and the whole community,” Greenfield said. “That's what we're shooting for.”

District officials said the only way to ensure this safety is for them to cover all of their bases.

“We're dealing with sprained ankles and stuff and that's nothing compared to what's going to happen if they get struck by lightning,” Bearden said. “The results are catastrophic.”

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