Limitoo News

Sheltering sheep killed by lightning strike

Otago Daily Times
By John Lewis of
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File image Photo: RNZ / Liz Garton

A lightning strike near Naseby which left a dozen sheep and lambs dead has prompted a sobering reminder to stay indoors during thunderstorms.

Māniatoto farmer Phil Smith said five ewes and seven lambs were sheltering under a tree on his property when it was struck by lightning on 6 January, killing them instantly.

Smith had heard of it happening on other farms around New Zealand, but it was the first time he had seen it happen on his farm.

"I didn't know it had happened for the first few days. I only got notified by my neighbour. She walked her dogs down the road and she came across them and rung me about it.

"You don't like any stock dying, but what can you do. It's happened and you just have to deal with it and carry on."

Photos of the dead sheep around the tree were posted to social media.

Many commented about similar incidents where stock and people had been struck by lightning over the years, while others expressed surprise at the level of damage a single lightning bolt could deliver.

"Pretty horrifying and amazing at the same time," one person said.

Statistics show lightning strikes the ground in New Zealand about 190,000 times a year, and the chances of being struck by it are about one-in-280,000 - lower than most other countries.

MetService meteorologist Lewis Ferris said there were nearly 670 lightning strikes around Otago and Southland on January 5 and 6 alone.

"January 5 and 6 were pretty active, and so far this year there has been 1272 strikes around Otago and Southland."

Lightning strikes generally happened in summer when daytime convection was most likely, Ferris said.

Being outdoors was not a good idea in thunderstorms, he said.

"There's a famous saying - when thunder roars, go indoors.

"Do not shelter beneath trees or any tall structure, especially if it's metallic."

- This story was first published on the Otago Daily Times