Chances are you don't worry about being struck by a bolt of lightning, but if you do suffer from astrapophobia, Henry Vigansky has news for you.
For the past five years, Vigansky has been the government's top lightning watcher. He's a GS-9 meterological technician at the National Climatic Center in Asheville, N.C. The NCC, a division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, publishes annual reports on lightning deaths and injuries.
Vigansky compiles statistics for the report and can tell you, among other things, that the place to go to avoid being hit by lightning is Alaska or Hawaii. Those are the only two states that have not recorded a single death or injury from lightning since the federal government began keeping statistics 21 years ago.
Vigansky also advises astrapophobes to stay out of Flordia, which has the worst record for deaths caused by lightning -- 227 from 1959 to 1980.
The total number of deaths attributed to lightning has dropped over the last three years from the previous national average of 105 per year. Lightning killed 74 people last year, 63 in 1979 and 88 in 1978. Vigansky speculates that recent droughts contributed to the decrease.
The District has recorded three lightning-related deaths since 1959, Virginia 32 and Maryland 98. Eighty-one of Maryland's deaths occurred in a 1963 airline crash that was blamed on lightning.
The NCC is now preparing new monthly and annual maps of U.S. thunderstorm activity from 1948 to 1977. Public safety officials and power companies are expected to use them to identify storm-prone areas. Tips on Avoiding Bolts From Blue
The federal government's lightning watchers offer these tips in case of electrical storms.
Immediately move into a large building if possible. Don't use the phone except in emergencies.
Avoid standing in an open field or on a hilltop. If you are caught in an open field, and your hair stands on end, kneel and bend forward, putting your hands on your knees.
If caught in a forest, seek shelter in a low area under a thick growth of small trees.
Don't stand under a natural lightning rod such as a tall, isolated tree.
Move away from metal objects -- farm equipment, bicycles, golf carts and clubs.
Avoid wire fences, clotheslines and metal pipes.