Lightning Deaths on the Rise in 2015; None Here, So Far

Lightning Deaths on the Rise in 2015; None Here, So Far

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The good news is that no one in Kane County has lost their life to a lightning strike so far this year.

The bad news is that lightning kills an average of 49 people in the United States each year, and 22 deaths have been recorded in 2015.

During the course of any year, hundreds more people are severely injured. Lightning strikes the United States about 25 million times a year, and although most lightning occurs in the summer, people can be struck at any time.

The National Weather Service website is a great source to teach you how to stay safe and offer insight into the science of lightning. You’ll find animated books about lightning, safety tips for all kinds of situations, games for kids and resources for teachers. You’ll learn about lightning victims and survivors.

Why NOAA Doesn’t Recommend the Lightning Crouch

The National Weather Service stopped recommending the crouch in 2008. Why? The crouch simply doesn’t provide a significant level of protection. Whether you’re standing or in the crouch position, if a lightning channel approaches from directly overhead (or very nearly so), you’re very likely to be struck and either killed or injured by the lightning strike. Rather than “what to do in a dangerous situation” NWS focuses on “what to do so you don’t get into a dangerous situation,” and, “if you do find yourself in a dangerous situation, how to get out of the dangerous situation.”

Illinois Lightning Stats

  • Average Cloud-To-Ground Flashes 2005-14: 800,737
  • Total Cloud-To-Ground Flashes 2014: 798,616
  • Deaths 2005-14: 7

5 Ways to Die (Or Get Injured) By Lightning

  1. Direct Strike: A person struck directly by lightning becomes a part of the main lightning discharge channel. Most often, direct strikes occur to victims who are in open areas. Direct strikes are not as common as the other ways people are struck by lightning, but they are potentially the most deadly.
  2. Side Flash: A side flash (also called a side splash) occurs when lightning strikes a taller object near the victim and a portion of the current jumps from taller object to the victim. In essence, the person acts as a “short circuit” for some of energy in the lightning discharge. Side flashes generally occur when the victim is within a foot or two of the object that is struck. Most often, side flash victims have taken shelter under a tree to avoid rain or hail.
  3. Ground Current: When lightning strikes a tree or other object, much of the energy travels outward from the strike in and along the ground surface. This is known as the ground current. Anyone outside near a lightning strike is potentially a victim of ground current. In addition, ground current can travel in garage floors with conductive materials. Ground current causes the most lightning deaths and injuries. Ground current also kills many farm animals.
  4. Conduction: Lightning can travel long distances in wires or other metal surfaces. Metal does not attract lightning, but it provides a path for the lightning to follow. Most indoor lightning casualties and some outdoor casualties are due to conduction. Whether inside or outside, anyone in contact with anything connected to metal wires, plumbing, or metal surfaces that extend outside is at risk. This includes anything that plugs into an electrical outlet, water faucets and showers, corded phones, and windows and doors.
  5. Streamers: While not as common as the other types of lightning injuries, people caught in “streamers” are at risk of being killed or injured by lightning. Streamers develop as the downward-moving leader approaches the ground. Typically, only one of the streamers makes contact with the leader as it approaches the ground and provides the path for the bright return stroke; however, when the main channel discharges, so do all the other streamers in the area. If a person is part of one of these streamers, they could be killed or injured during the streamer discharge even though the lightning channel was not completed between the cloud and the upward streamer.

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CREDIT: Photo by Jeff Kilburg

CREDIT: Photo by Jeff Kilburg