Summer is Peak Time for Thunderstorms: Are You Lightning Ready?
Jun 24, 2019
Most of us remember a time when we played in the rain or were unexpectedly caught in a storm. But the lightning lurking nearby can be a serious threat:
About 300 people are struck by lightning each year in the United States.
Most lightning strikes occur during June, July and August when people are enjoying the warmer weather.
Every year in the United States, there are about 25 million cloud-to-ground lightning flashes.
All thunderstorms produce lightning.
Lightning may strike as far as 10 miles from any rainfall.
How Can You Keep Yourself and Your Loved Ones Safe?
Prevention is key. Always check the forecast before leaving your house to spend time outdoors. If there is a strong chance for storms, postpone the activity.
If you’re outside and hear thunder, move inside immediately. If you can hear thunder, lightning is close enough to strike you. While moving inside does add a layer of protection, you can still be struck by lightning. Once inside, reduce your risk by:
Not using water, including sinks, baths and faucets. Lightning can travel through plumbing.
Avoiding electronic equipment, including TV.
Staying away from concrete floors and walls. Lightning can travel through metal wires or bars used in concrete buildings.
Keeping away from windows, doors and porches, where lightning has direct access to you.
Staying inside for at least 30 minutes. There is danger even after a storm.
Whether you’re stuck outside at your child’s sporting event, or are out walking the dog when the next storm rolls in, follow these tips:
Stay low with as little of your body touching the ground as possible. Lightning causes electric currents along the top of the ground that can be deadly from 100 feet away. Finding a low spot like a ditch also reduces your risk.
Avoid open areas. Lightning tends to strike tall objects. Stay away from isolated trees and power lines.
Stay away from metal conductors. Metal does not attract lightning, but lightning travels quickly through conductors like wires and fences.
Take cover in your hard-topped, metal car. While being in an enclosed car is not as safe as being inside a building, it is safer than staying outside.
Spread out if you’re with a group. If one of your group members is struck, others are available to help.
Steer clear of bodies of water. Water does not attract lightning, but it can travel quickly through it, so head to dry ground if you’re at the pool or lake.
About 30 people die from lightning strikes across the country each year, and many more suffer lifelong disabilities. If someone is struck by lightning, here’s what you can do to help:
Begin CPR if you are trained.
Move the victim to a safer area if it doesn’t put you at further risk for being struck.
Sarah Denny, MD, FAAP, works as an attending physician in the Section of Emergency Medicine at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and as an associate clinical professor of pediatrics at The Ohio State University College of Medicine.
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