Summer is the peak season for one of the nation's
deadliest weather phenomena— lightning.
Safeguarding U.S. residents from dangerous lightning is the goal of
this Website. The campaign is designed to lower lightning death and injury
rates and America's vulnerability to one of nature's deadliest hazards.
In the United States, an average of 66 people are killed each year by
lightning. In 2004, there were 32 deaths attributed to lightning, down
from 44 thanks in part to increased education and safety. In 2005,
there were at least 43 deaths confirmed deaths and 172 confirmed injuries.
The injury number is likely far lower than it should be because
many people do not seek help or doctors do not record it as a lightning
People struck by lightning suffer from a variety of long-term,
debilitating symptoms, including memory loss, attention deficits, sleep
disorders, numbness, dizziness, stiffness in joints, irritability,
fatigue, weakness, muscle spasms, depression, and an inability to sit for
Lightning is a serious danger. Through this site we hope you'll learn
more about lightning risks and how to protect yourself, your loved ones
and your belongings.
Lightning—The Underrated Killer
Lightning—The Underrated Killer
In the United States, there are an estimated 25 million cloud-to-ground
lightning flashes each year. Lightning can be fascinating to watch, but it
is also extremely dangerous. During the past 30 years, lightning killed an
average of 67 people per year in the United States based on documented
cases. This is more than the average of 65 deaths per year caused by
tornadoes and the average of 16 deaths per year caused by hurricanes.
However, because lightning usually claims only one or two victims at a
time, and because lightning does not cause the mass destruction left in
the wake of tornadoes or hurricanes, lightning generally receives much
less attention than the more destructive weather-related killers. While
documented lightning injuries in the United States average about 300 per
year, undocumented injuries caused by lightning are likely much higher.
Lightning Safety Awareness: Education
Few people really understand the dangers of lightning. Many people
don't act promptly to protect their lives, property and the lives of
others because they don't understand all the dangers associated with
thunderstorms and lightning. The first step in solving this problem is to
educate people so that they become aware of the behavior that puts them at
risk of being struck by lightning, and to let them know what they can do
to reduce that risk. Coaches and other adults who make decisions affecting
the safety of children must understand the dangers of lightning.
Watch for Developing Thunderstorms
Thunderstorms are most likely to develop on warm summer days and go
through various stages of growth, development and dissipation. On a sunny
day, as the sun heats the air, pockets of warmer air start to rise in the
atmosphere. When this air reaches a certain level in the atmosphere,
cumulus clouds start to form. Continued heating can cause these clouds to
grow vertically upward in the atmosphere into "towering cumulus" clouds.
These towering cumulus may be one of the first indications of a developing
The Lightning Discharge: Don't Be a
Part of It
During a thunderstorm, each flash of cloud-to-ground lightning is a
potential killer. The determining factor on whether a particular flash
could be deadly depends on whether a person is in the path of the
lightning discharge. In addition to the visible flash that travels through
the air, the current associated with the lightning discharge travels along
the ground. Although some victims are struck directly by the main
lightning stroke, many victims are struck as the current moves in and
along the ground. While virtually all people take some protective
actions during the most dangerous part of thunderstorms, many leave
themselves vulnerable to being struck by lightning as thunderstorms
approach, depart, or are nearby.
An Approaching Thunderstorm: When to
Seek Safe Shelter
Lightning can strike as far as 10 miles away from the rain area in a
thunderstorm. That's about the distance you can hear thunder. When a storm
is 10 miles away, it may even be difficult to tell a storm is coming.
IF YOU CAN HEAR THUNDER, YOU ARE WITHIN STRIKING DISTANCE. SEEK SAFE
The first stroke of lightning is just as deadly as the last. If the sky
looks threatening, take shelter before hearing thunder.
The 30-30 Rule
Use the 30-30 rule where visibility is good and there is nothing
obstructing your view of the thunderstorm. When you see lightning, count
the time until you hear thunder. If that time is 30 seconds or less, the
thunderstorm is within 6 miles of you and is dangerous. Seek shelter
immediately. The threat of lightning continues for much longer period than
most people realize. Wait at least 30 minutes after the last clap of
thunder before leaving shelter. Don't be fooled by sunshine or blue sky!
If it is cloudy or objects are obscuring your vision, get inside
immediately. It is always safer to take precautions than to wait.
Outdoor Activities: Minimize the Risk
of Being Struck
Most lightning deaths and injuries in the United States occur during
the summer months when the combination of lightning and outdoor summertime
activities reaches a peak. During the summer, people take advantage of the
warm weather to enjoy a multitude of outdoor recreational activities.
Unfortunately, those outdoor recreational activities can put them at
greater risk of being struck by lightning. People involved in activities
such as boating, swimming, fishing, bicycling, golfing, jogging, walking,
hiking, camping, or working out of doors all need to take the appropriate
actions in a timely manner when thunderstorms approach. Where organized
sports activities take place, coaches, umpires, referees, or camp
counselors must protect the safety of the participants by stopping the
activities sooner, so that the participants and spectators can get to a
safe place before the lightning threat becomes significant. To reduce the
threat of death or injury, those in charge of organized outdoor activities
should develop and follow a plan to keep participants and spectators safe
Indoor Activities: Things to Avoid
Inside homes, people must also avoid activities which put their lives
at risk from a possible lightning strike. As with the outdoor activities,
these activities should be avoided before, during, and after storms. In
particular, people should stay away from windows and doors and avoid
contact with anything that conducts electricity. People may also want to
take certain actions well before the storm to protect property within
their homes, such as electronic equipment.
Helping a Lightning Strike Victim
If a person is struck by lightning, medical care may be needed
immediately to save the person's life. Cardiac arrest and irregularities,
burns, and nerve damage are common in cases where people are struck by
lightning. However, with proper treatment, including CPR if necessary,
most victims survive a lightning strike, although the long-term effects on
their lives and the lives of family members can be devastating.
Lightning is a dangerous threat to people in the United States,
particularly those outside in the summer. With common sense, we can
greatly reduce the number of lightning deaths. When thunderstorms
threaten, get to a safe place, stay there longer than you think you need
to, stay away from windows and doors and avoid contact with anything that