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LIGHTNING PROVING LETHAL IN THE U.S. THIS SUMMER

NOAA image of lightning collage.July 26, 2005 Lightning may be synonymous with summer, but meteorologists with the NOAA National Weather Service say it does not need to be linked to casualties. "Too often, people wait too long before seeking safe shelter from a thunderstorm and find themselves caught outside in a very dangerous and sometimes deadly situation," said John Jensenius, a lightning safety expert with the NOAA National Weather Service. This certainly has been the case for summer 2005. (Click NOAA image for lager view of lightning collage. Click here for high resolution version. Please credit “NOAA.”)

Lightning has killed at least 14 people and injured more than 100 in the United States since early June, according to news reports and local NOAA National Weather Service forecast offices. An average of 67 people are killed by lightning each year with hundreds of lightning survivors left with debilitating health effects.

Last weekend alone, lightning killed a worker at a mobile home park in Grayson, Ky., and a father and his step-son at the beach in Gulf Shores, Ala. Another 16 people were injured by lightning in Florida, North Carolina and Wisconsin while enjoying typical summertime activities—a baseball game, the beach and camping. Historically, July is the month with the greatest amount of lightning activity in the United States and accounts for more lightning casualties than any other month.

"While the NOAA National Weather Service issues watches and warnings for severe thunderstorms, all thunderstorms are dangerous and issue a warning of their own—that being the sound of thunder," added Jensenius. "If you can hear thunder, you're likely within striking distance and need to get to a safe place immediately. If you're outside, you also should keep a watchful eye on the sky for developing thunderstorms, especially if background noise interferes with your ability to hear thunder."

When thunderstorms threaten, NOAA recommends that people seek safety in a substantial building. If outdoors and unable to reach a substantial building, a hard-topped metal vehicle is a good second choice. Once inside, avoid contact with any electrical equipment or plumbing, stay off corded phones and stay away from windows and doors. Remain inside for 30 minutes after the thunderstorm has passed.

When planning outdoor activities, prepare for the possibility of thunderstorms and know where to quickly seek safety if a storm develops. Carry a NOAA Weather Radio All-Hazards to stay informed on the current and developing weather conditions.

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NOAA, an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce, is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and providing environmental stewardship of the nation's coastal and marine resources.

Relevant Web Sites
NOAA Lightning Safety Awareness

NOAA National Weather Service

NOAA Lightning Page

Media Contact:
Chris Vaccaro, NOAA National Weather Service, (301) 713-0622 ext. 134