One dangerous aspect of weather that sometimes is not taken as seriously as others is lightning, also known as the Underrated Killer. In the United States, an average of 62 people are killed each year by lightning, with many more who survive strikes but suffer long lasting injuries and symptoms.
Avoid getting caught in a dangerous situation!
If you can hear thunder, you are close enough to be struck by lightning!
- Move into a sturdy building or an automobile with a metal top. The frame of the building or of a metal car body will allow the charge to be conducted away from you.
- Outdoor activities such as golfing and baseball can present a risk to those in attendance, as these take place on a fairway or ball field, both of which are wide open. Those attending rodeos or concerts in open arenas, sitting on metal bleachers or under a metal overhang, are also at risk.
- Get out of boats and away from water, as water is an electrical conductor. On the open water, you become the tallest object and a prime target.
- If lightning is close, and only if there is no immediate shelter available, crouch down onto the balls of your feet. Do not lie down and give lightning more surface area to strike. By crouching down, you are as low as possible with the minimum amount of contact with the ground.
- When indoors, avoid using any corded and electrical appliances. Also stay away from pools, tubs, showers, or any other plumbing. Electricity can travel through wiring and plumbing, posing a risk to those in contact.
- If someone is struck by lighting, get medical help immediately. With proper treatment, including CPR if necessary, most lightning victims survive.
Did you know...
Thunderstorms do not have to be large in size or severe in nature to create potentially fatal lightning strikes.
- As a thunderstorm grows, areas of rising and descending air cause a separation of positively and negatively charged particles in the storm. At the same time, oppositely charged particles are gathering on the ground below. The attraction between the particles in the cloud and at the ground quickly grows, and once the force is strong enough to overcome the air's resistance, lightning occurs.
For safety, use the "30-30 Rule".
- Count the seconds between the time you see a lightning strike and hear thunder. If that time is less than 30 seconds, you should already be in a safe location. If you are not in a safe location, you should be heading to one immediately.
- You may go outside and resume activities after 30 minutes have passed since you last heard thunder.
To estimate your distance from lightning, use the "Flash to Bang Method".
- If you observe a lightning strike, count how many seconds pass before you hear thunder. Take that number and divide it by five to estimate your distance from the lightning in miles.
Example: After a strike, you count to 15 before you hear thunder. 15 divided by 5 gives you an estimated distance of 3 miles.
Learn more about lightning from the NOAA's Lightning Safety Guide.