Fine proposed in New Jersey town for ignoring lightning warning

July 10, 2013 3:29:38 PM PDT
There are 25 million lightning strikes a year in the United States.

Now one town in New Jersey wants to fine people for not heeding the warnings of the lightning detectors it's installed.

The stakes are high: on average, 39 people are killed by lightning every year.

A vote on the fines was scheduled for Wednesday night in the Bergen County borough of Cresskill.

At Cresskill's summer camp, one long blast signals that lightning is approaching, and the 430 young campers know they must leave the ball fields immediately for their safety and head straight to the recreation center.

"It's a very important thing for us to have," said the town's recreation director Barbara Mann.

In fact, she calls it a matter of life and death.

But the lightning detection system doesn't just protect the children.

It's been installed throughout the two square mile borough for the protection of everyone on public fields.

"Somebody got killed and that was it," said Borough Administrator Andrew Vaccaro. "From that point on, we just moved right in."

That fatality was in Demarest last year.

A grandfather watching his granddaughter play soccer was struck by a bolt of lightning.

The detection system, which gives a ten minute warning and costs approximately $40,000, was installed in Cresskill and several other communities.

To take the warning one step further, the Cresskill Borough Council will consider an ordinance in which someone who does not leave a public field could face a fine of up to $1,000.

"It's really to say to people, look, please obey the orders to get kids off the fields, get the people off the field. It's really the coaches and the parents, they know to get them off the field," said Vaccaro.

While some parents feel the warning system is a good safety measure, they have questions about an ordinance to enforce it.

"I disagree with it. I guess we will just have to abide by whatever the rules are," said resident Alba Shick.