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New Canaan Parks to Have Lightning Warning System

NEW CANAAN, Conn. – Don’t be alarmed if you see loudspeakers and strobe lights dotting Waveny Park and other New Canaan parks this summer. But you might want to pay attention if the lights go off and the speakers emit sounds alerting you to head indoors.

It’s all part of a lightning detection system that will warn visitors of town parks when lightning is in the area. “Every town athletic field will be covered,” Parks Department Director John Howe said as he reviewed the equipment sent from Turf Products Corp.

Two sensors will be in place at Waveny Park and the parks department garage at Saxe Middle School. The system will warn park visitors to clear out when lightning is within 5 miles of New Canaan. Although the equipment will be able to detect lightning up to 20 miles away, Howe said a 5-mile warning makes more sense. If it goes off too often, people may begin to ignore it, he said.

The system, Howe said, should be useful for youth sports groups and New Canaan High School athletic teams, which use town fields for practices and games.

The warning system should be up and running in July, Howe said, and will be active daily from 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Similar systems are used at golf clubs to alert players to clear courses when bad weather approaches.

Bonnie Byers of Hamden, visiting Waveny Park on Wednesday with her 3-year-old granddaughter Lily Arniell of Darien, loves the idea. “Storms can move in very quickly,” Byers said. She recalled an incident three years ago at Hammonasset Beach State Park when a visitor was struck by lightning. “If it saves one life, I think it’s worth it. I think all towns should have it.”

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