OCEAN CITY — Providing further evidence of the need to heed the lifeguards’ orders to get off the beach when lightning is spotted nearby, an Ocean City Beach Patrol (OCBP) guard stand on 127th Street was struck during a brief but powerful thunderstorm Wednesday, splintering and burning the wood and sending nails shooting outward.
Shortly after 1 p.m. on Wednesday, a brief thunderstorm rolled over the resort with lightning flashes visible across the resort sky. As per usual protocol, the OCBP cleared the beach and the ocean until the storm passed as lightning bolts continued to crackle. On 127th Street, an unoccupied guard stand was struck, causing considerable damage and providing a tangible illustration of the dangers of thunderstorms on the beach.
“What bothers me the most is that people are constantly fighting with us and arguing with us when we clear the beach during thunder and lightning storms,” said OCBP Captain Butch Arbin on Wednesday afternoon. “They’ll tell us they’re not in the water and they’ll be safe, but a lot of them have no idea just how dangerous it is out there during a lightning storm.”
Arbin said witnesses still on the beach said nails shot out of the lifeguard stand when it was struck. A section of the stand splintered and burn marks were clearly visible. He also pointed out that sand conducts electricity and the current from a lightning strike can travel easily across the beach to areas far removed from the impact spot.
“On top of that, the beach is so flat that a person standing there might be the tallest object in the area,” he said. “We’ve had tragedies out there caused by lightning, and yet people still want to argue with us. We can’t stress enough just how dangerous it is.”