Another awareness week is currently upon us. This time it’s Lightning Safety Awareness Week.
Do you really have to worry about lightning? After all, people are always comparing life’s most unlikely scenarios to the likelihood of being struck, right?
Well, it turns out that more people are hurt by lightning than tornadoes or hurricanes, so you should at least educate yourself on a little lightning safety this week. And, you’re in luck. We’ve got tips for you.
- Run to a safe building or vehicle when you first hear thunder, see lightning, or observe dark threatening clouds developing overhead.
- Stay inside until 30 minutes after you last hear the last clap of thunder.
- Plan Ahead! Your best source of up-to-date weather information is a NOAA Weather Radio (NWR). Portable weather radios are handy for outdoor activities. If you don’t have NWR, stay up to date via internet, TV, local radio or cell phone. If you are in a group, make sure all leaders or members of the group have a lightning safety plan and are ready to use it.
- If camping, hiking, etc., far from a safe vehicle or building, avoid open fields, the top of a hill or a ridge top. Keep your site away from tall, isolated trees or other tall objects. If you are in a forest, stay near a lower stand of trees. If you are camping in an open area, set up camp in a valley, ravine or other low area. Remember, a tent offers NO protection from lighting.
- If you are camping and your vehicle is nearby, run to it before the storm arrives.
- Stay away from water, wet items such as ropes and metal objects, such as fences and poles. Water and metal are excellent conductors of electricity. The current from a lightning flash will easily travel for long distances.
The National Weather Service estimates that 100,000 thunderstorms occur in the United States each year, and lightning is present in all thunderstorms. A cloud-to-ground lightning strike, the most destructive form of lightning, occurs when the electrical difference between a thundercloud and the ground overcomes the insulating properties of the surrounding air.
The danger may not be apparent; lightning has struck 10 miles away from the rain of a thunderstorm. In the United States, cloud-to-ground lightning strikes occur approximately 30 million times each year, most often in Florida and along the southeastern coast of the Gulf of Mexico.