MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) -Cloud to ground lightning strikes the United States around 25 million times a year. Lightning is three times hotter than the surface of the sun and can reach temperatures of 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Typically, lightning occurs mainly in the summer, but people can be struck at any time of year. Each year there are about three hundred people struck and about 30 people in the United States die from being struck each year. Hundreds of people survive getting struck by lightning but many suffer life-long disabilities.
Lightning fatalities can happen anywhere. Florida is called the lightning capital of the world because it does have the most fatalities per year but most states have had at least one.
Summer is the most dangerous time for lightning as most lightning fatalities occur in June, July and August. Sixty- four percent of lightning fatalities are due to outdoor recreation. A good chunk of that percentage is due to water activities and sports.
A lot of these tragedies can be prevented. Many lightning strike survivors say they were caught outside and not able to find a safe place while others waited too long before trying to seek a safe place. Some went back outside too soon. The National Weather Service collects information on weather-related deaths to learn how to prevent these tragedies.
When thunderstorms threaten, get inside a building with plumbing and electricity, or a hard-topped metal vehicle! Stay inside for at least 30 minutes after you hear the last thunder. Thirty minutes can seem like a long time, but it is what you should do to stay safe. Finally, some victims were struck inside homes or buildings while they were using electrical equipment or corded phones. Others were in contact with plumbing, outside doors, or window frames. It is best to avoid contact with these electrical conductors when a thunderstorm is nearby.
If you are unable get to a safe building or vehicle: Here are some tips....
Avoid open areas. Don’t be the tallest object in the area. Stay away from isolated tall trees, towers or utility poles because lightning tends to strike the taller objects in an area.
Stay away from metal conductors such as wires or fences. Although, metal does not attract lightning, but lightning can travel long distances through it. If you are with a group of people, spread out. This may increases the chance that someone might get struck, but it decreases the likely hood of multiple casualties, and increases the chances that someone could assist if a person is struck.
If someone gets struck, cardiac arrest is the immediate cause of death for those who die. Lightning victims do not carry an electrical charge and may need first aid immediately.Call 9-1-1. 9 Give first aid. Begin CPR if you are trained. Use an Automatic External Defibrillator if one is available. These units are lifesavers! Don’t be a victim. If possible, move the victim to a safer place. Lightning can strike twice.