Lightning Safety Awareness Week
Do you know what to do when you're outside during a thunderstorm and lightning is overhead?
It’s natures version of a laser light show. And many people enjoy it's beauty. But lightning is extremely dangerous. In fact, lightning is the second biggest weather killer in the nation, behind only flooding.
Susan Sanders a Meteorologist at the Rapid City NWS says; "On average over 50 people a year die in the united state from lightning strikes. And we probably don't realize it's that many because it's just one here and there and so it's not concentrated, like we hear a hurricane or tornado that would kill several people from one storm."
That why the national effect known as lightning safety awareness week is lead by the national oceanic and atmospheric administration. Any thunderstorm, regardless of severity, will always produce lightning, and thus is always dangerous at all times. In South Dakota, it's estimated that the state sees over 400-thousand cloud-to-ground lightning strikes every year! That comes out to 5 strikes per square mile per year.
Sanders says, "If the charges build up within that cloud it could produce lightning and so people have to be very careful when they are outside in the summer and just watch the storms if they're starting to build or if they hear thunder or see lightning in the distance, it's close enough so that they can be struck."
And it should come as no mystery that those outdoor are at a significantly higher risk of being struck. That’s why if you see thunder, or hear lightning, you are close enough to be struck. Never seek shelter underneath a tree, always go inside a building, or a car with a metal frame. Avoid using plumbing, or contact with electrical devices. And you should stay indoors for at least 30 minutes since the last lightning strike.
Sanders says, "The vast majority of people who are killed by lightning are outdoors and generally they're doing some recreational activities so they're at a park, on a lake, or playing golf and going underneath a tree from shelter because of the storm and then get struck by lightning."