The dangers of lightning and how to stay safe

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FARMERSBURG, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) – Just like flooding, lightning is also very dangerous in the U.S., and kills on average, 41 Americans each year. 

All thunderstorms produce lightning and are dangerous. According to the National Weather Service, lightning can be up to five times hotter than the surface of the sun. 

You may have heard the phrase, “If thunder roars, go indoors” that’s because if you can physically hear thunder, then lightning is close enough to strike where you are at any moment, so head inside to a safe place away from windows. And even if the sky appears clear, lightning can travel sideways for up to 10 miles, so always be cautious and never wait until the last minute to seek shelter.

Permanent disabilities or even death can be a result of getting struck by lightning. About 10% of people who were struck with lightning die, and 70% of survivors suffer long term effects. 

80% of lightning fatalities are men. 63% of lightning fatalities occur during activities like fishing, hiking, walking, soccer, golfing, baseball, boating. 17% of lightning fatalities occur during work activities like farming, construction, roofing, lawn care. And 16% of lightning fatalities occur during daily routine activities like heading to/from home or a vehicle, doing yard work, or something as simple as taking out the trash.

A lot of people think that “heat lightning” happens on a hot summer night and is not a storm. But in reality, heat lightning is not a real thing!  “Heat lightning” is a storm way off in the distance and it’s so far away it’s below the horizon but the light off the lightning is visible. 

Safe places for when lightning strikes are inside a building with wiring or plumbing or a hard-topped vehicle if you are not near a safe structure. Stay away from windows, trees, open areas, and metal. Avoid leaning against vehicles or being around any other people/large groups of people. Get off of any bikes or motorcycles. Do not hold on to any metal items. And if you are in water or near puddles get out and move to a safe place.

Many people think cars are safe in lightning storms because of the rubber tires, but it’s actually the metal shell of the car that protects you.

Remember, if you see it, flee it. If you are close enough to see lightning, then you are close enough to be hit by it.

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