It’s most common in the spring and summer, although lightning can occur any time of the year. While a high energy thunderstorm can be fascinating to watch, no one outdoors is safe from a lightning strike. Over the past 10 years, nearly 300 people have been killed by lightning and ten times that number are injured, many with permanent, chronic damage to their nervous systems.
“People need to remember that if you can hear thunder, lightning is nearby,” said Patricia Dugger, Lexington’s Director of Emergency Management. “The best thing to do when you hear thunder is to get to a safe building or vehicle and stay inside for 30 minutes after you hear the last rumble of thunder.”
Men are five times more likely than women to be struck by lightning and one-third of lightning injuries occur indoors. Fires caused by lightning strikes cause millions of dollars in damage each year. Lightning caused wildfires burn thousands of acres of land.
Here are some ways people can reduce their chances of being struck by lightning:
- Avoid open fields, the tops of hills or ridge tops.
- Stay away from tall, isolated trees and other tall objects. If you are in a forest, stay near a lower stand of trees.
- Stay away from water, wet items and metal object such as fences, bleachers and flagpoles. The electricity from a lightning strike can travel through the ground for long distances.
- If you’re in a small boat on the water, seek the shore immediately and get out of the boat. Large boats with enclosed cabins and lightning protection systems are relatively safe.
- If you’re indoors, avoid contact with corded phones, electrical cords and plumbing. Avoid bathing or showering during a thunderstorm.
To prepare for a thunderstorm, consider these actions:
- Make a family emergency plan and build personal and family emergency kits.Remove dead or rotting trees and branches that could fall and cause damage during a severe storm.
- Stay aware of changing weather conditions. Postpone outdoor activities if thunderstorms are likely.
- Go indoors at the first sight of a storm. Stay indoors for 30 minutes after hearing the last clap of thunder.
- Secure outdoor furniture and other objects that could blow away or cause damage during a storm.
- Unplug electronic equipment before a storm arrives.
- If you’re in an unfamiliar area, check to see where the closest shelter is to your location.
- Remember that rubber soled shoes and tires do not provide protection from lightning. The metal frame of a hard-topped vehicle provides increased protection if you’re not touching metal surfaces.
More information about lightning safety is available at: BeReadyLexington.com/lightning/.
Information about emergency preparedness is available from the Lexington Emergency Management website at BeReadyLexington.com. Information is also available from the Lexington Emergency Management Facebook page – LexingtonKYEM – and the emergency management Twitter account – @LEXKYEM.