Lightning Strike Risk And Safety

July 24, 2014, by Ken Jorgustin

lightning-risk-and-safety

Lightning fatalities are highest among those who are fishing, boating, camping, and on the beach – even higher than lightning fatality statistics of golfers (NWS statistics).

Many lightning victims were seeking shelter when they were struck because they waited too long before seeking safety. Many believe that they are safe from a lightning strike because the thunderstorm is not yet overhead.

The thing is, when you hear thunder, even a distant rumble, you are already within striking distance of a potentially deadly lightning bolt – even a bolt from the blue.


 
Under good listening conditions, you can hear thunder from a distance of about 10 miles, which is the distance that lightning can strike outward from a thunderstorm.

Unfortunately most people do not seek shelter until the first lightning strike is closely upon them, not realizing that they could be struck even though the thunderstorm is thought to be far enough away.

 

Threat Of Lightning Casualties

What is interesting about the following illustration is how it shows that lightning risk is HIGH when thunderstorms are NOT YET OVERHEAD. It begins at a distance of about 10 miles away and peaks just prior to (and during) the thunderstorm initial approach. The second peak of high lightning risk is as the thunderstorm departs – higher than when it’s directly overhead.

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Image: National Weather Service

 

Lightning Safety Tips

NO PLACE outside is safe when thunderstorms are in the area.

If you hear thunder, lightning is close enough to strike you.

When you hear thunder, immediately move to safe shelter: a substantial building with electricity or plumbing, or an enclosed metal-topped vehicle with windows up.

Immediately get off elevated areas such as hills, mountain ridges or peaks

Never lie flat on the ground

Never shelter under an isolated tree

Never use a cliff or rocky overhang for shelter

Immediately get out and away from ponds, lakes and other bodies of water

Stay away from objects that conduct electricity (wire fences, power lines, windmills, etc.)

Stay off corded phones, computers and other electrical equipment that put you in direct contact with electricity.

Avoid plumbing, including sinks, baths and faucets.

Stay away from windows and doors, and stay off porches.

Do not lie on concrete floors, and do not lean against concrete walls.

 

Which State’s Have The Most Lightning?

what-state-is-the-biggest-lightning-rod
Image: The Christian Science Monitor

where-does-lightning-strike-most-often
Image: The Christian Science Monitor

 
During outdoor activities when there is a threat of thunderstorms, consider carrying a portable NOAA Weather Radio.