Lavallette will become the latest Jersey Shore town to install a lightning detection sensor along its beachfront, a practice that began last season following the tragic death of a South Seaside Park lifeguard by a lightning strike.
Last season, Brick Township was the first town to announce it would install such a system, and a similar announcement followed almost immediately by Toms River. Brick’s system consists of two sensor arrays, one of which is installed at each of its primary public ocean beaches. Toms River’s system, likewise, consists of two arrays at its lifeguard stations in Ortley Beach.
Lavallette’s array is going to be installed at the raised lifeguard stand at Philadelphia Avenue, with the borough having purchased the same system as Toms River. The two towns are planning to network their systems so each can benefit from the detection sensors in the other arrays, providing Lavallette with more robust coverage from the south, and Toms River with more robust coverage from the north.
Lavallette and Toms River will use the “Strike Guard” system while Brick uses the “Thor Guard” system. Both are very similar, however they are manufactured by different companies and cannot be linked.
“We’ve been able to work out arrangements to tap into the Toms River system,” said Lavallette Borough Administrator John O. Bennett, explaining that the lifeguard station unit will be the borough’s first and the system could be expanded even within town.
“We will see how far that actually gets us,” said Bennett. “We’ll get the first one up so we will have it to begin the season.”
Each of the systems utilize a number of data points to detect the presence of lightning with an approximate 20-mile radius. The stations do process radar imagery, but their on-board sensors operate on a frequency that self-detects lightning strikes, both in “cloud” and “cloud-to-ground” scenarios. The detectors are also fitted with optical sensors and horns that blast out an alarm signal when lightning strikes are detected. If the alarm activates, swimmers are required to get out of the water, and the beaches may be closed.
Toms River officials said they had no plans to expand their own system this season, since they will now benefit from Lavallette’s coverage as well as coverage emanating from towns to the south that are planning on installing the system. Normandy Beach and some of the other North Beach communities are within the range of Brick’s system.
“With those communities acquiring their own receivers, they will benefit from our signal,” said Toms River township spokesman Art Gallagher. “Berkeley has a system too, which extends coverage to Seaside Park.”
“The Brick alarm should alert people on the private beaches in Normandy/Ocean Beach and North Beach,” he added.