Tube rentals cease with lightning near
Local photographer Andy Heatwole’s image captured the situation perfectly.
Taken from the pedestrian bridge at City Park at around 3 p.m. on Independence Day, the photograph’s foreground shows brightly-colored kayaks and tubes. In the distance, a darkened sky is punctuated by a lightning bolt.
Heatwole actually snapped the photo at about the same time the Lions Club Tube Rental stopped renting tubes and selling shuttle passes (largely to people who bring their own floatation devices) because of lightning within six miles of their City Park headquarters.
“When there’s lightning in the area we stop,” said Lions Club member Mark Jalufka. “We monitor for lightning. Any time there’s anything within six miles of our location we stop. We keep picking people up and getting them out of the river. Our vans and buses keep running so people can get out.”
It had been a busy day for tube rentals on Wednesday before the storm moved. “The Fourth of July is always a busy day for us,” he said. Proceeds from the popular tube rental, which draws families from across the state, go to various local charities.
Jalufka said if it’s a passing storm, sometimes the tube rental personnel will “wait it out” until it passes.
He said on Wednesday, many people that had been in the river and in the park took shelter inside the tube rental until the worst of the weather passed. “Everybody just ran in. We finally got them cleared out of here probably fiveish, and we were able to get away by six, six thirty.”
Sometimes, he said, people will protest not being able to get in the river when it’s basically unsafe. “I tell them, ‘look, I would never put my own family in the river when there’s lightning in the area and I’m not going to put your family in the river either.’” That generally does the trick.
Despite the number of people who had already begun their float on the Fourth of July, Jalufka said everyone stayed safe. “We managed to find everybody.”