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Posted at 11:00 AM ET, 06/24/2011

Lightning Safety Week and survival stories


Lightning strikes the Washington Monument. By CWG photographer Kevin Ambrose
Thunderstorm activity has been spotty across the region this week, but the National Weather Service’s 11th annual Lightning Safety Week provides some good reminders of how to stay vigilant (pdf) during peak thunderstorm season.

As in previous years, the NWS is emphasizing going indoors when thunder roars. Unfortunately, even with heightened awareness, lightning kills an average of 55 people in the United States each year, with over 80 percent of victims being men. In 2011, six deaths have already been reported.

The good news is that the odds of being struck by lightning are about 1 in a million in a given year (one wonders how much even smaller the odds are of a meteorologist being struck by lightning, and yet it happens). And luckily no state around here is among the five states most prone to lightning strikes. Moreover, about 90 percent of lightning victims survive.

Nonetheless, lightning does kill, and even when it doesn’t it can cause long-term or permanent disabilities, including short-term memory loss, depression, irritability and seizures.

What are the odds of becoming a lightning victim? And what’s it like to survive a strike? Keep reading...


Credit: NOAA
For those who survived nature’s electrical power, what was the experience like? According to the National Weather Service’s lightning safety page, one survivor recalls:

I could feel my hair on the back of my neck go up. I could hear thunder. At that moment I had too think quickly…the grass was wet and it was too far to run back to my car and too far to run to the front door. I could hear the thunder in my ears, and then everything went white.

Another writes:

Almost two years ago I was working on a dock on the east coast of Florida. I remember several events immediately after being struck, but can’t remember the order in which they happened.
At one point I recall my brain racing trying to figure out what happened to me. One minute I was walking along fine and the next I wasn’t sure which way was up or down and I seemed to be spinning. I also recall what seemed to be a period of time when all I could see was a white or grey color. It seemed to me as though I was almost flying.
Then I saw a bright flash at which point I suspect I landed on the dock. I could not move at all but my eyes were open and my head was tilted at an angle. I was told afterwards it started raining very hard but I could not feel anything. ...
While it is very difficult to remember exactly what happened that day, it is even more difficult to forget.
I am here to tell you there is nothing good that comes from being struck by lightning and I strongly urge everyone to take every precaution possible to avoid it.

These and many other chilling lightning survival stories are available for the public to read here. Some of them are more graphic and frightening than the anecdotes above. However, they offer a valuable lesson in the risks associated with thunderstorms, reminding us that it is always better to be safe than sorry.

Related:

Common lightning myths (NWS)
Five tips to stay safe from lightning
Lightning: To crouch or not to crouch?
Airline safety: Is the fear of a lightning strike warranted?

By  |  11:00 AM ET, 06/24/2011

Categories:  Thunderstorms, Latest

 
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