The Washington Post

Fishing leads U.S. lightning death activities

The cicadas pictured in this article emerged during and rainy and stormy Saturday night. This photo was taken Saturday night near Manassas, Virginia. (Kevin Ambrose) Manassas, Virginia, May, 2013. (Kevin Ambrose)

Between 2006 and 2012, 238 people died from lightning strikes in the U.S., or an average of 37 per year.  Most (152) of the deaths occurred from leisure activities, with fishing at the top of the list says a new National Weather Service study.

The 26 fishing deaths surpassed totals from camping (15 deaths), boating (14 deaths), soccer (12 deaths), and golf (8 deaths).

Lightning deaths associated with different leisure activities (National Weather Service) Lightning deaths associated with different leisure activities, 2006-2012 in the U.S. (National Weather Service)

It may come as a surprise that, during the 7-year study period, more than three times as many people died from lightning while fishing compared to playing golf.

“NOAA has made a concerted effort to raise lightning awareness in the golf community since we began the campaign in 2001, and we believe our outreach has made a huge difference since lightning-related deaths on golf courses have decreased by 75 percent,” said John Jensenius, a lightning safety specialist with the National Weather Service.

Jensenius said the the relatively high number of fishing and boating lightning deaths has occurred due to the extra time required to seek shelter while on the water.

Leading causes of lightning deaths among different activities (National Weather Service)

“People often wait far too long to head to safety when a storm is approaching, and that puts them in a dangerous and potentially deadly situation,” Jensenius said.

Some other notable lightning statistics from the 2006-2012 study:

* 82 percent of people killed by lightning were male.

* 70 percent of lightning deaths occurred in June, July and August, with Saturday and Sunday having slightly more deaths than other days of the week

Lightning deaths according to age groups and sex (National Weather Service)

* The greatest number of fatalities occurred in individuals ages 10 to 60, with somewhat fewer deaths for people in their 30s.

Sunday marked the opening day of lightning safety week, which extends through June 29. So far in 2013, there have been seven lightning deaths.


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Jason is currently the Washington Post’s weather editor. A native Washingtonian, Jason has been a weather enthusiast since age 10.
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Jason Samenow · June 24, 2013

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