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Take Caution Against Lightning During Thunderstorms


With all the pop up thunderstorms we have been having lately, one has to be very cautious against one of the nation’s deadliest weather phenomena – lightning.  Summer is the peak time for outdoor activities and also happens to be the peak season for lightning. According to the NOAA, over the last 20 years, the United States averaged 51 annual lightning strike fatalities, placing it in the second position, just behind floods for deadly weather.

NOAA’s National Weather Service has discovered that 64 percent of lightning deaths since 2006 occurred while people were participating in leisure activities. The number one leisure activity was fishing followed by camping  and boating.  Between 2006 and 2012, 82 percent of people killed by lightning were male.

Let’s be careful and make sure that none of us have the unpleasant opportunity.  Be smart and follow these lighting safety tips:

  • Watch for environmental clues, such as increasing wind, flashes of lightning, sounds of thunder, darkening skies, and AM radio static.
  • Stay indoors. Don’t go outside unless absolutely necessary.
  • Stay away from open doors, windows, and patios, fireplaces, radiators, stoves, metal pipes, sinks and plug-in electrical appliances.
  • Unplug all unnecessary appliances BEFORE the storm approaches.
  • Don’t use plug-in electrical equipment like hair dryers, electric tooth brushes or electric razors during the storm.
  • Don’t use the telephone, especially corded ones, during the storm. Lightning may strike telephone lines outside.
  • Don’t take laundry off the clothesline.
  • Don’t work on fences, telephone or power lines, pipelines or structural steel fabrication.
  • Don’t use metal objects like fishing rods and golf clubs. Golfers wearing cleated shoes are particularly good lightning rods.
  • Don’t handle flammable materials in open containers
  • Stop tractor work, especially when the tractor is pulling metal equipment, and dismount. Tractors and other implements in metallic contact with the ground are often struck by lightning.
  • Avoid water! Get out of boats and swimming pools and away from water.
  • Stay in your automobile if you are traveling. Automobiles offer excellent lightning protection. The rubber tires DO NOT protect you, it’s the roof.
  • Seek shelter in buildings. If no buildings are available, your best protection is a cave, ditch, canyon or under head-high clumps of trees in open forest glades.
  • When there is no shelter, avoid the highest object in the area. If only isolated trees are nearby, your best protection is to crouch in the open, keeping twice as far away from isolated trees as the trees are high.
  • Avoid hilltops, open spaces, wire fences, metal clothes lines, exposed sheds and any electrically conductive elevated objects.
  • If you feel your skin tingle or your hair stands on end, squat low to the ground on the balls of your feet. Place your hands on your knees with your head between them. Make yourself the smallest target possible, and be sure to minimize your contact with the ground!

People struck by lightning receive a severe electrical shock and may be burned. However, they don’t have an electric charge and can be handled. Prompt mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, cardiac massage and prolonged artificial respiration can revive a person who appears dead. If lightning strikes a group of people, treat those who appear dead first. Those with vital signs will probably recover without treatment. However, their burns and other injuries may require treatment. Except for impairment or loss of sight or hearing, recovery from lightning strikes is often complete.

Louder or more frequent thunder means lightning activity is approaching, increasing the risk for lightning injury or death. If the time delay between seeing the lightning and hearing the thunder is less than 30 seconds, you are in danger. REMEMBER: If you can hear thunder, you are close enough to the storm to be struck by lightning!!!

References: NOAA study finds fishing tops U.S. lightning death activities