By Lara Evans Bracciante
If you find yourself boating, swimming, fishing, bicycling, golfing, hiking, camping, or otherwise outside when a summer thunderstorm rolls through, know how to protect yourself from lightning — a phenomenon that kills an average of 77 people and injures hundreds more nationwide every year. While lightning-related injuries are most likely to occur in Florida, Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina, lightning-related fatalities are most common in Florida, Michigan, New York, Texas and Tennessee. Strikes are most common during the summer months between 2-6 p.m. By taking a few simple precautions, however, you can greatly reduce your risk:
1. Recognize the situation. If thunder occurs within 30 seconds of a strike, the thunderstorm is within six miles of you and is dangerous. Better yet, if the sky is threatening, move to a safe area before lightning starts.
2. Seek shelter in an enclosed building when you first hear thunder. If a building isn’t an option, seek shelter in a car with the windows up.
3. Avoid lightning targets, such as trees, picnic pavilions, and rain shelters. Also, be sure you aren’t holding metal items, such as golf clubs or tennis rackets.
4. Get away from the water, whether you’re boating or doing dishes.
5. Avoid electrical appliances and telephones with cords. These can serve as conduits for lighting.
6. Wait at least 30 minutes after the last clap of thunder before resuming outdoor activities. The threat of lightning can last even after the storm has seemingly passed.
For more information, visit www.lightningsafety.noaa.gov.