NIU bolt detector online

By Sara Adams

A new lightning detection system lends an added sense of security to NIU students.

The Boltek Storm Protector has two main advantages over the old system, the National Lightning Detection Network, said NIU Meteorologist Gilbert Sebenste.

“The first advantage is that it can detect cloud lightning – that is inter-cloud lightning,” Sebenste said. “The National Lightning Detection Network that we get now can’t.”

Inter-cloud lightning can occur 20 minutes before the first lightning strike that reaches the ground, so this gives extra warning time, Sebenste said.

“The second advantage is that the data comes in constantly; with the old system, it updates every three to five minutes,” Sebenste said. “That gives us additional time to evacuate the stadium or any other outdoor facility.”

Along with the data received from the new system, the NIU meteorology staff will continue to use the National Lightning Detection Network and satellite and radar data.

“We had to test the system and find the best location for it,” Sebenste said. “When it was all said and done, we determined that it was going to be up in the press box [at Huskie Stadium].”

The $600 Boltek Storm Protector is a newer product and the majority of universities do not have it, Sebenste said.

Huskies athletics was interested in investing in the system because of all the outdoor sporting activities, he said.

“Because the stadium is made mostly of metal, it presents a significant danger to the public in thunderstorms,” Sebenste said.

Those interested can check maps of lightning strikes at