Lightning is one of the leading causes of weather deaths in the United States. In Georgia, preliminary 2005 data shows lightning killed 2 people and injured 28. In Georgia, lightning killed 5 people and injured 17 in 2004, killed 1 person and injured 7 in 2003, 2 people were killed and 7 were injured by lightning in 2002, and 18 people were injured and 1 person was killed by lightning in 2001. Most lightning deaths occur in the Summer months usually in the afternoon and evening hours. Also, most deaths occur when people are caught outside during a storm.

Lightning results from the buildup and release of electrical energy between positive and negative charges between the earth and a thunderstorm. A single lightning bolt can be as hot as 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit – hotter even than the surface of the sun. This rapid heating and cooling of the air creates a shock wave which we hear as thunder. Lightning will usually strike the highest object in area. This includes trees, antennas, a boat on a lake, or a person standing in a field.

So, what should you do to protect yourself:

If you are outside, get inside a building or vehicle. If you can hear thunder, you are already at risk.

Practice the 30/30 safety rule. If you see lightning and cannot count to 30 before hearing thunder, go indoors. Stay indoors an additional 30 minutes after hearing the last clap of thunder.

If you cannot find shelter, do not stand under a tree or remain in an open place when lightning is near. Avoid open water, as well as tractors, bicycles, motorcycles, or golf carts. These will not provide protection, and may actually attract lightning.

Enclosed vehicles are generally safe, if you avoid contact with metal surfaces.

If you are in a forest, seek shelter in a low area under a thick growth of small trees.

If you are outside, and feel your hair stand on end, this indicates lightning is about to strike. Drop to your knees and roll forward to the balls of your feet. Place your hands on your knees and tuck your head down. Do not lie flat on the ground.

If you are boating or swimming, get to land as quickly as possible.

If you are inside, don’t use a telephone or other electrical equipment unless in an emergency.

Do not take a bath or shower during a thunderstorm.

For further information please visit the Lightning Safety page.