Lightning Safety Awareness Week: June 23-28

Each year, on average, more than 400 people in the United States are struck by lightning while working outside, at sporting events, on the beach, at the lake, mowing the lawn or doing other outdoor activities. Although summer is the peak season for lightning strikes, they can occur at any time of year.

Sponsored by the Kansas Division of Emergency Management, the National Weather Service, and the American Red Cross, Lightning Safety Awareness Week, June 23-28, is a nationwide effort to encourage the public to be aware and avoid the dangers of lightning.

“Lightning continues to be one of the top three causes of storm-related deaths in the United States,” said Maj. Gen. Lee Tafanelli, the adjutant general and director of the Kansas Division of Emergency Management. “Many people have the wrong idea about lightning and its behavior, and those misconceptions can prove fatal. Lightning Safety Awareness Week is aimed at correcting those false ideas and making us all safer.”

During this year’s campaign, the National Weather Service will feature daily social media graphics highlighting the dangers of lightning and safety precautions the public can take to lessen their chances of being struck. NWS will be using #lightningsafety for Twitter posts.

  • Monday: Lightning and Lightning Safety: An Introduction
  • Tuesday: Lightning’s Most Deadly Activities
  • Wednesday: Lightning Safety and Sports Activities
  • Thursday: Lightning Safety at Work
  • Friday: Lightning Safety Around the Home

Over the past 14 years, the average number of lightning deaths in the U.S. has decreased. Since 2006, five Kansans have died from lightning strikes; on a per capita basis, this places the state in the top 20 for lighting-related deaths.

On average, 53 people are killed each year by lightning in the United States. Survivors may experience memory loss, attention deficits, sleep disorders, numbness, dizziness, stiffness in joints, irritability, fatigue, weakness, muscle spasms, seizures, depression and inability to sit for long periods of time. These effects may be long-term or permanent.

Every flash of lightning is dangerous, even the first, because lightning can travel sideways from the storm. Many deaths from lightning occur because people wait too long before seeking shelter. If you can hear thunder, lightning is close enough that it could strike your location at any moment, and may strike as far away as 10 miles from a storm. Even when the sky looks clear, be cautious. At least 10 percent of lightning happens without visible clouds overhead in the sky. Look for dark cloud bases and increasing winds, and head to safety before the first flash of lightning.

The most dangerous place to be in the event of a storm is outside. Seek shelter in a sturdy, closed building that contains a mechanism for conducting the electrical current from the point of contact to the ground. Avoid sheds, picnic shelters, baseball dugouts, bleachers, open carports, garages and covered patios, which are not safe from lightning strikes. If no enclosed building is accessible, get inside a hard-topped, all-metal vehicle.

If you can’t get to a sturdy shelter, crouch down low in an open area. Stay at least twice as far away from trees as they are tall. Since water is an excellent conductor of electricity, avoid standing in or near puddles. Also, remember to avoid holding anything that will conduct lightning, such as golf clubs, fishing poles or tennis racquets.

For more information about lightning safety awareness, visit the National Weather Service’s web page on lightning safety http://www.lightningsafety.noaa.gov.

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