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Lightning safety: Here's what to do to avoid becoming a statistic

Lightning Deaths This Year.png
Lightning Deaths This Year (WPEC)

Florida has now recorded its first lightning death of 2021 - a 17-year-old boy succumbed to his injuries after being struck by lightning in Marco Island on July 17.

His school, Stratford Academy located in Macon, Georgia, confirmed his death on a Facebook post Wednesday night.

So what do you need to know about this deadly weather hazard to protect you and your family when thunderstorms move through your area? CBS 12 StormTrac Weather has you covered.

How Common Is It To Be Struck?

It's pretty uncommon to be struck by lightning in the United States, but your odds greatly depend on how you behave when thunderstorms are in the area. If you follow safety procedures and head inside, staying away from doors and windows during the storm, you're most likely going to be alright. But if you remain outdoors doing unsafe activities, your odds can increase greatly.

To put this in perspective, the US population in 2020 was roughly 331 million people. Of that number, we average 25 deaths per year in the United States with 225 injuries per year.

That means your odds of being struck in any given year is 1 in 1,324,000. Your odds of being struck in your lifetime (estimated 80 years), is 1 in 16,550.

What Should I Do If I'm Outside When Lightning Strikes?

If you get caught outdoors during a thunderstorm, you want to immediately seek shelter inside a sturdy structure as fast as you can. If you are unable to do so, follow these tips.

  • Avoid large open fields or being near the top of a hill or ridge.
  • Avoid standing near tall isolated objects like trees, power poles, or electrical towers.
  • If you are located in a forest, crouch down near a lower stand of trees.
  • If you're camping, trying to set up camp in a valley, ravine, or other low areas. This is a location that is less likely to see lightning strikes.
  • Avoid water at all costs. Water and metal don't attract lightning but are fantastic conductors of electricity. If they get struck, they can carry that voltage to anything nearby.

What Should I Do When I'm Inside?

This is the smartest way to stay safe during a thunderstorm - seeking shelter inside a sturdy building. Here's what you need to know to stay safe inside during a thunderstorm.

  • Stay off corded phones. Most of us now in days have cellular or cordless phones, which are find to use during storms. But avoid any phones that are connected.
  • Don't touch any electrical equipment. Only use remote controls.
  • Avoid sinks, showers and other plumbing. If your house gets struck, these metal connections in your home can carry the electrical current through them causing a secondary contact strike.
  • Avoid windows and doors. These can contain metal components which can be good conductors of electricity should your house be struck.
  • Do not lie on concrete floors or lean against concrete walls.

Since 2011, Florida leads the nation in lightning deaths with 50. The second-place state - Texas with 22 deaths. Florida averages more lightning strikes per year than any other state, which is why our numbers tend to be so high. Remember to take special precautions whenever thunderstorms are expected in your area.

Above all else - when thunder roars, go indoors. Lightning can strike as far as 30 miles outside the nearest storm cell. Don't think just because it isn't storming where you are you can't be struck. If you can hear the sound of thunder, you're close enough to be struck by lightning.

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