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LIGHTNING CASUALTIES IN THE U.S. CLIMB AS SUMMER CONTINUES

NOAA image of lightning collage.August 4, 2006 During the second half of July, lightning has proven particularly deadly across the U.S., warn meteorologists with the NOAA National Weather Service. (Click NOAA image for lager view of lightning collage. Click here for high resolution version. Please credit “NOAA.”)

Lightning has killed at least 27 people this year, with more than half of those fatalities (14) occurring since July 15. In addition, there were three fatalities during the last half of July where lightning is the suspected cause of death. This is more than double the number of fatalities seen in recent years for the last half of July.

"In the past two weeks, we've seen an alarming increase in the number of lightning deaths in this country," said John Jensenius, a lightning safety expert with the NOAA National Weather Service. "People are ignoring the common warning signs of thunderstorms or failing to get to a safe place when thunderstorms threaten."

In three separate incidents, four of the fatalities this year have involved teenagers playing soccer. Three fatalities were golf-related, two were related to camping and two were people killed while on riding lawn mowers. Males have accounted for 22 of the fatalities, and five have been female. New Jersey and Colorado have each had three fatalities; Florida, Georgia, Louisiana and Michigan have each had two fatalities. Single fatalities have occurred in Nebraska, Kentucky, Tennessee, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Ohio, South Carolina, Alabama, Indiana, Wisconsin, New York, Montana and Arizona.

The combination of outdoor summer activities and thunderstorms places people at risk of being struck by lightning. This year, most of the fatalities have been people caught outside in open areas or under trees. People often wait too long before seeking safe shelter from a thunderstorm and find themselves caught outside in a very dangerous and sometimes deadly situation.

"Unfortunately, the same fatal mistakes that have been made for centuries are being repeated today," added Jensenius. "With lightning, there is no safe place outside when a thunderstorm is nearby. If you can hear thunder, you're likely within striking distance of the storm and need to get to a safe place immediately. Anytime you're outside in the summer, you should watch the sky for signs of developing thunderstorms, especially if background noise interferes with your ability to hear thunder."

In the past 30 years, lightning has killed about 2,000 people across the U.S. with an average of 66 people each year. In addition, hundreds of people are injured each year by lightning. Some lightning survivors are left with debilitating health effects.

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, listen to the latest weather forecast, plan for the possibility of thunderstorms and know where to quickly seek safety if a storm develops. Carry a NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards to monitor current and developing weather conditions.

In 2007, NOAA, an agency of the U.S. Commerce Department, celebrates 200 years of science and service to the nation. From the establishment of the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey in 1807 by Thomas Jefferson to the formation of the Weather Bureau and the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries in the 1870s, much of America's scientific heritage is rooted in NOAA.

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Relevant Web Sites
NOAA Lightning Safety

NOAA Weather Radio All Hazards

NOAA Lightning Portal

Media Contact:
Dennis Feltgen, Meteorologist, NOAA National Weather Service, (301) 713-0622