I Don’t Take Attendance When a Thunderstorm Rages

I have a policy of not taking class attendance when thunderstorms are in the area because of the danger—I really don’t want to put my students at risk. I won’t insist my students traverse ice-covered roads during a winter storm (and several of them commute longer distances); now I won’t force them to walk outdoors during a storm either. My building is located in the older part of campus, with a beautiful quad featuring some gorgeous towering trees, aka lightning magnets. I know enough about thunderstorms (hey, I teach introductory meteorology, though I’m really a climatologist) to recognize that any time one hears thunder, one is in danger. I know people try to count the seconds between the lightning flash and the peal of thunder in an attempt to gauge how close/far the storm is (as a method of personal risk assessment), but one does not know how large the thunderstorm cell is. The typical diameter of a thunderstorm cell is approximately 10-15 miles. You have no way of knowing whether the lightning was from the center or the near perimeter or the far perimeter. So, you really don’t know if you are standing directly underneath the next lightning strike!

Back to my attendance policy. I do not wish for my students to be outside in a thunderstorm. I do not want them to feel frightened as they walk outside, on their way to class. A missed day of Global Climatology will not trigger the end of the world. So, students, be safe.