Lightning Safety Awareness Week 2016

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Provided by Prince William Fire & Rescue

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The official start of summer is just a few days away, and rising temperatures mean that more of us will spend more leisure time enjoying outdoor activities. However, at some point in time, stormy weather is going to occur, accompanied by thunder and lightning. Although summer is the peak season when lightning occurs, according to the National Weather Service (NWS), people can be struck by lightning at any time of the year.

Lightning strikes the ground approximately 25 million times a year in the U.S. It accompanies all thunderstorms and is extremely dangerous. Except for flooding, lightning (referred to as the deadliest weather phenomena) kills more people than any other natural weather event and causes billions of dollars in property damage. Each year, an average of 31 people in the U.S. are killed by lightning and hundreds more are seriously injured. The peak months for lightning and lightning fatalities are June, July and August. To date, there have been six lightning fatalities this year in the U.S. (lightningsafety.noaa.gov/fatalities.shtml).

Rain is a natural part of a thunderstorm and all too often individuals assume that once the rain subsides and the skies turn blue the immediate threat of danger has passed. Yet, lighting often strikes outside the area where heavy rain occurs. For this reason, many lightning deaths often occur either ahead of the storm or after, when the storm “appears” to have passed. Lightning is an erratic and unpredictable characteristic of a thunderstorm — no one can guarantee one’s protection from lightning. According to the National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL), thunderstorms always have lightning; thunder is caused by lightning, and you can’t have a thunderstorm without thunder, but you can have lightning without a thunderstorm.

Lightning is an underrated killer for the majority of lightning casualties that occur are preventable. To increase public awareness about the dangers of lightning, NOAA initiated Lightning Safety Awareness Week, dedicated to the last full week in June, in preparation for the upcoming months when lightning strikes are most active in the U.S.

This year’s event will take place on Sunday, June 19th thru Saturday, June 25th.

Lightning Facts — Did you know?

A single bolt of lightning:

  • Can reach anywhere from two to ten and carry one hundred million volts of electricity.
  • Its temperature range, 15,000 – 60,000 degrees Fahrenheit, is hotter than the surface of the sun.
  • Lightning travels about 62,000 miles per second, or one-third the speed of light.

Safety Tips

Indoor Lightning Safety

  • Stay off corded phones, computers and other electrical equipment that put you in direct contact with electricity.
  • Avoid plumbing, including sinks, baths and faucets.
  • Stay away from windows and doors, and stay off porches.
  • Do not lie on concrete floors, and do not lean against concrete walls.

Caught Outside with No Safe Shelter

  • NO PLACE outside is safe when thunderstorms are in the area!!
  • If you hear thunder, lightning is close enough to strike you.
  • When you hear thunder, immediately move to safe shelter, such as a substantial building with electricity or plumbing or an enclosed, metal-topped vehicle with windows up. “When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors!”
  • Stay in safe shelter at least 30 minutes after you hear the last sound of thunder.

If you are caught outside with no safe shelter anywhere nearby the following actions may reduce your risk:

  • Immediately get off elevated areas such as hills, mountain ridges or peaks.
  • Never lie flat or crouch on the ground.
  • Never shelter under an isolated tree.
  • Never use a cliff or rocky overhang for shelter.
  • Immediately get out and away from ponds, lakes and other bodies of water.
  • Stay away from objects that conduct electricity (barbed wire fences, power lines, windmills, etc.).

Chief Kevin McGee of the Prince William County Department of Fire and Rescue states, “Don’t assume you’ll be safe even when the slightest chance of a thunderstorm is predicted. Your best defense is to know and follow proven lightning safety guidelines and have a plan before you leave for the day, to greatly reduce your risk of injury or death.”

For more information on lightning safety, visit the National Weather Service at lightningsafety.noaa.gov/.

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