A fitting flash of fireworks during Lightning Safety Awareness Week

So I was watching the Euro 2008 semifinal between Germany and Turkey late yesterday afternoon when – zap – the live coverage disappeared and ESPN suddenly began showing us crowd shots outside the stadium in Basel, Switzerland.

Lo and behold, a “freak storm” in Vienna, Austria, with winds clocked at 87 miles an hour and heavy lightning, had disrupted the worldwide telecast of a soccer tournament many consider second only to the World Cup. Lightning strikes caused disruptions in the signal, officials said, which prompted the master-control room to reboot.

The bottom line for fans watching the match around the world is that they missed seeing the Germans take the lead late in the match and Turkey tie it up again with just a few minutes to play. The live feed had been restored by the time Germany scored a dramatic late winner to earn a berth in Sunday’s final.

Two people were seriously injured after being trampled as crowds gathered in Vienna to watch the match on large outdoor screens fled the severe weather.

The Union of European Football Associations, or UEFA, promises to have better back-up systems in place to prevent recurrences for today’s second semifinal featuring Spain and Russia, as well as Sunday’s championship match.

As I read descriptions of the storm, it reminded me of so many late spring and summer thunderstorms that have rolled across Kansas this year — and in so many years past. They apparently don’t see too many storms like that in the Alps.