Published on Wednesday, 30 November -0001 00:00
In 2007, 45 people in the United States were killed by lightning. At least 28 were killed in 2008 (the data is still being collected). This year, on Memorial Day weekend alone, a dozen people were struck and injured by lightning.
One lightning casualty so far this year was a man in St. Cloud who was struck by lightning running through the ground in his backyard; he later died.
According to AccuWeather, the 30-year average in the United States is 62 deaths from lightning each year. This is comparable to the number of deaths from tornadoes each year.
Lightning flashes somewhere in the United States an estimated 25 million times each year. A lightning bolt carries 10,000 to 200,000 amps in current (compared to 120 amps in your home's wiring).
The bottom line in stormy weather is that there is no place to be outside that is safe from lightning. Being away from trees, poles, or wires does not protect you from the possibility of a lightning strike.
Don't wait for a weather warning. The term "severe thunderstorm" refers to damaging winds and hail; lightning need not be indicated.
And don't assume that you're safe because the storm isn't right on top of you. A bolt of lightning can strike people and buildings 10 miles away from where it is raining. In extremely rare cases, lightning has been detected nearly 50 miles away from the parent thunderstorm.
If you are caught outdoors during a thunderstorm, make yourself the smallest target possible. Crouch down with your knees together and your weight on the balls of your feet. Put your head down and cover your ears. Do not lie flat. The goal is to minimize your height and your body's contact with the ground.
Never seek shelter underneath a tree. The lightning charge can strike the tree, then cause fatalities up to 100 feet away. Avoid lakes, streams and swimming pools since water conducts electricity.
A sturdy and enclosed building or a car is the safest place to be during a thunderstorm. Water, windows, plumbing and electrical appliances should be avoided. Roughly 4 to 5 percent of people who have been struck by lightning were talking on a corded telephone.
Source: Meteorologist Kristina Pydynowski at AccuWeather.com.