Lightning kills over 50 people in the U.S. each year. But deaths are only part of the lightning story. Only about 10% of those struck are killed; 90% survive. However, many of the survivors suffer devastating life-long injuries. These injuries are primarily neurological, with a wide range of symptoms, and are very difficult to diagnose. Lightning also causes over $5 billion of economic loss each year in the U.S. from fires and other property destruction.
Lightning strike frequencies are highest in the Southeast, Midwest, and the front ranges of the Rocky Mountains, but all states have some lightning threat.
Fortunately, most lightning deaths and injuries can be easily avoided. Remember, no place outside is safe when thunderstorms are in the area.
Public education is the key. The vast majority of lightning casualties can be easily avoided if people know what to do. Lightning Safety Awareness Week provides a good opportunity to learn about lightning safety.
- If you hear thunder, lightning is close enough to strike and you should immediate seek safe shelter in a substantial building or a vehicle with a metal top and sides. Stay there until 30 minutes after the last sound of thunder. If you are caught outside, don’t stay out in the open or near water, and never stand under a tall, isolated tree. If someone near you is struck by lightning and unresponsive or not breathing, immediately call 9-1-1 and administer CPR. Learn more at NOAA: Lightning Safety.