Summer is the peak season for one of the nation's deadliest weather phenomena— lightning. But don't be fooled, lightning strikes year round, and sometimes with deadly consequences.
June 24-30 is National Lightning Awareness Week. Although the average annual number of lightning deaths has dropped from 73 to 55, NOAA and its lightning safety partners believe that’s still too many and urge the public, “When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors!”
To date, there have been four deaths in 2012. In May, a lightning strike to a Summerville home displaced a family.
Hundreds of people are permanently injured each year. People struck by lightning suffer from a variety of long-term, debilitating symptoms, including memory loss, attention deficits, sleep disorders, chronic pain, numbness, dizziness, stiffness in joints, irritability, fatigue, weakness, muscle spasms, depression, and more.
This year the National Weather Service unveiled a new community-based volunteer awareness program to increase awareness about the danger of lightning at outdoor recreational venues, like local parks, ball fields, outdoor concert arenas, golf courses and swimming pools.
The agency created lightning safety awareness signs that local communities can install at these public places to encourage people to go indoors when they hear thunder.
"Fear already exists for lightning, but thunder needs to be seen as the early warning for lightning – many people still take risks that aren’t worth losing their life over," said Donna Franklin, lighting safety program leader with the National Weather Service. "Nearly 85 percent of lightning victims are male, and this has been true since we began keeping records in 1959 — so it's especially important that we teach our young men to make risk-averse decisions during thunderstorms. When people hear thunder, they need to immediately stop what they are doing and go inside."
To avoid being struck by lightning, NOAA’s National Weather Service recommends that you:
- Get into a fully enclosed building or hardtop vehicle at the first rumble of thunder;
- Stay indoors for 30 minutes after the last thunder clap;
- Monitor the weather forecast when you’re planning to be outdoors;
- Have a plan for getting to safety in case a thunderstorm moves in;
- Do not use a corded phone during a thunderstorm unless it’s an emergency; cell phones are safe to use;
- Keep away from plumbing, electrical equipment and wiring during a thunderstorm.