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When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors

We’ve all heard the adage that the odds of getting hit by lightning are better than the odds of
winning a major lottery such as Powerball, but we probably don’t ever really think about how
those odds actually equate. To put it in perspective, the odds of winning Mega Millions are
estimated at 1 in 3.6 million. The odds of a U.S. resident being struck by lighting in their lifetime
are 1 in 15,300. That’s a remarkable difference, and it shows how important lightning safety
education is even though most people don’t spend much time thinking about it.


National Lightning Safety Awareness Week runs from June 23-29 this year, which means it’s a
good time to look at some facts and myths about lightning. Since this awareness campaign
began in 2001, the number of fatalities caused by lightning strikes has dropped significantly,
going from an average of 55 down to an average of less than 30. Still, hundreds of U.S.
residents are struck by lightning each year, and while roughly 90% of the victims actually
survive, many victims suffer severe and lifelong injuries. It is imperative that there be greater
public awareness of this serious issue.


Statistics give us the facts, but they don’t always hit home. If you hear thunder, you are in
danger of being struck by lightning. On May 15, 2023, a father and his 6 year-old son were killed
by lightning walking back from a school bus stop in Valley Mills, Texas. In September, 2023, a
16 year-old girl and her father were struck by lightning while hunting near Gainesville, Florida.
The 16 year-old was killed, while her father survived. Just last month, a 51 year-old Colorado
rancher was killed along with 34 cattle in a lightning strike. These incidents are stark reminders
that lightning needs to be taken seriously.


“‘When thunder roars, go indoors” is a saying we all need to embrace. With that in mind, here
are some general safety tips during a thunderstorm provided by the National Weather Service:


● Remember that NO PLACE outside is safe when thunderstorms are in the area.
● If you hear thunder, lightning is close enough to strike you.
● When you hear thunder, immediately move to safe shelter: a substantial building with
electricity or plumbing or an enclosed, metal-topped vehicle with windows up.

● Stay in safe shelter at least 30 minutes after you hear the last sound of thunder.


If you are caught outside with no safe shelter anywhere nearby the following actions may
reduce your risk:


● Immediately get off elevated areas such as hills, mountain ridges or peaks.
● Never lie flat on the ground, crouching in a low lying area is a better bet.
● Never shelter under an isolated tree.
● Never use a cliff or rocky overhang for shelter.
● Immediately get out and away from ponds, lakes and other bodies of water.
● Stay away from objects that conduct electricity (barbed wire fences, power lines,
windmills, etc.)
Indoor safety is equally important:
● Stay off corded phones, computers and other electrical equipment that put you in direct
contact with electricity
● Avoid plumbing, including sinks, baths and faucets
● Stay away from windows and doors, and stay off porches
● Do not lie on concrete floors, and do not lean against concrete walls
● Do not shower, bathe, wash your hands or dishes, or do laundry