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Lightning Safety Week

Everything you need to know about lightning, and how to stay safe this summer
Lightning strike captured on June 16th, 2022 near Argyle
Lightning strike captured on June 16th, 2022 near Argyle(Jeff Talbert | WJHG)
Published: Jun. 20, 2022 at 9:15 PM CDT
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PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - When thunder roars, go indoors.

It’s a simple message, but one that can potentially save lives. Over the last two decades, lightning fatalities have fallen from 55 deaths per year to less than 30 in the United States. The National Lightning Safety Council hopes to continue this downward trend as its’ annual Lightning Safety Awareness Week returns from June 19th to the 25th.

Lightning fatalities per year have decreased from 55 in 2001 to less than 30 in 2020.
Lightning fatalities per year have decreased from 55 in 2001 to less than 30 in 2020.(National Lightning Safety Council)

Lightning is one of the least understood weather phenomena, but its dangers are well documented. As lightning passes through the air, it heats the air to 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit, which is roughly 5 times warmer than the surface of the sun. This rapid heating creates a sound wave which is what we hear in the form of those loud cracks of thunder. Under normal conditions, the sound of thunder can be heard 10 miles from a lightning strike. Lightning can also strike outward 10 miles from a thunderstorm. This is why scientists stress that if you can hear thunder, lightning can hit you.

In 2021, there were roughly 35 million cloud to ground lightning strikes across the United States. There were 11 fatalities as a result, four of which were in Florida. The majority of these occurred at the beach or on a golf course.

Lightning generally strikes the tallest objects in an open space, so it’s critical to avoid open fields and hilltops when dark clouds begin to loom. It’s important to remember that there is no safe place to be outside during a thunderstorm. The only completely safe measure is to go inside a safe building or vehicle. When spending time outdoors where such locations may be further away, it’s important to have a Weather Radio handy to get the latest forecast.

Even when indoors, it’s worth noting that lightning can still enter structures through wires or pipes, and even through the ground. During thunderstorms, avoid plumbing, windows and doors that contain metal, and stay off balconies, porches, and out of open garages.

Once 30 minutes have passed after the last crack of thunder, it is safe to head back outside.

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