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New app provides real-time alerts on lightning danger

SINGAPORE — The danger of being struck by lightning can come down to a matter of minutes in Singapore, which has one of the highest occurrences of lightning activity in the world.

Total lightning. Photo: NEA

Total lightning. Photo: NEA

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SINGAPORE — The danger of being struck by lightning can come down to a matter of minutes in Singapore, which has one of the highest occurrences of lightning activity in the world.

Now, the public can have real-time lightning information at their fingertips with a free smartphone application called Lightning@SG by the Meteorological Service of Singapore (MSS).

The app, available for iPhone and Android devices, was launched yesterday to help alert the user of potential lightning risks when out in the open. It gathers real-time data through the MSS’ new lightning detection system, which has four lightning detection sensors located in Sembawang, Changi, Ulu Pandan and Choa Chu Kang.

According to media reports, Singapore has an average of 0.35 lightning deaths per million people each year, compared to 0.2 in Britain and 0.6 in the United States, making it one of the lightning capitals of the world.

The months of April, May, October and November are the most lightning-prone because of the intense inter-monsoon weather conditions.

“With an average of around 167 thunderstorm days a year, lightning strikes are a potential safety hazard for anyone engaging in outdoor activities in Singapore. Therefore, it’s important for the public to be alerted of potential lightning risks when out in the open,” said Ms Wong Chin Ling, Director-General of the MSS.

Besides providing real-time lightning information on an interactive map, the Lightning@SG app also displays animated radar images and gives a three-hour forecast of thundery showers. It is also capable of detecting different types of lightning as well as total lightning activity.

One of its features allows users to save up to three locations of interest. Users can zoom in on these locations to view geographical references such as landmarks, public swimming pools and national parks.

The app will also alert users and warn them when lightning is detected or when there is a forecast of thundery showers within six to eight kilometres from their saved locations.

Besides the app, the public can also get lightning information at the MSS website, or call the weather information hotline at 6542 7788.

In 2011, a man was killed after he was struck by lightning during a fishing trip to Coney Island. Prior to that, a golfer was killed by a lightning strike in 2009 at the Tanah Merah Country Club.

The MSS will also be distributing educational material on lightning safety to schools, community centres, and facilities that provide outdoor services to further educate the public on potential lightning risks. WOO SIAN BOON

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