National Lightning Safety Awareness Week
June has certainly been an eventful month with plenty of rainfall and thunderstorms. It almost seems fitting that we mention that this week is National Lightning Safety Awareness Week. According to NWS Storm Data, the U.S. has averaged 51 deaths related to lightning strikes per year over the last 30 years. About 10% of people who are struck by lightning are killed, leaving 90% with various injuries or disabilities. When thunderstorms are in the area, NO PLACE outside is 100% safe. Some may think that you must be close to the dark cumulonimbus clouds to be struck by lightning, but in reality if you hear thunder, lightning is close enough to strike you. When you hear thunder or see lightning, immediately move to enclosed building.
Not everyone may have the ability to get indoors, and a metal-topped vehicle with the windows up would be the next best option. Upon a lightning strike, the metal frame around the car will conduct the electric current around the interior. Never seek shelter under an isolated tree. Not only can the tree get electrocuted itself, but also the tree could fall on someone underneath it. Standing a few feet away from the tree won’t help your situation either because it is possible to get electrocuted by standing on a tree root. You also want to avoid objects that conduct electricity (barbed wire fences, power lines, baseball fields, etc.) and bodies of water (ponds, lakes, rivers, etc.). After reaching a safe shelter, wait at least 30 minutes after you hear the last sound of thunder or lightning before returning outdoors.
Interestingly enough, you can sometimes feel your hair stick up as a charge is being built up before a lightning strike. Some might have the natural reaction to lie flat on the ground, but this can set up for a higher risk of injury. Lying flat on the ground exposes more of your body to the ground, which creates a larger probability of receiving the electric current should lightning strike an object close to you. Experts say that the best reaction after feeling your hair stand up is to get in a “catcher’s squat” like in baseball while wrapping your arms around your legs and tucking your head in.
The best prevention from lightning strikes is to plan accordingly. Know what the forecast is that day and be aware of severe weather around you.