Hazards of Lightning

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, lightning kills about 150 Americans each year and injures another 250. Property loss is put at $150 million annually.

It also is estimated that 1,800 thunderstorms are in progress over the earth's surface at any given moment and that lightning strikes the earth 100 times each second.

Lightning Safety Rules

The following is a list of rules designed to save lives when lightning threatens. The list was compiled by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the U.S. Department of Commerce:

  • Stay indoors and don't venture outside unless absolutely necessary.
  • Stay away from open doors and windows, fireplaces, radiators, stoves, metal pipes, sinks and plug-in electrical appliances.
  • Don't use electrical equipment such as hair dryers, electric tooth brushes, and electric razors during the storm.
  • Don't use the telephone. Lightning may strike the telephone lines outside.
  • Don't work on fences, telephone or power lines, pipelines or structural steel fabrication.
  • Don't use metal objects such as fishing rods and golf clubs. Golfers wearing cleated shoes are particularly good lightning rods.
  • Don't handle flammable materials in open containers.
  • Stop tractor work, especially when the tractor is pulling metal equipment, and dismount. Tractors and other implements in metallic contact with the ground often are struck by lightning.
  • Get out of the water and off of small boats.
  • Stay in your automobile if you are traveling. Automobiles offer excellent lightning protection.
  • Seek shelter in buildings. If no buildings are available, your best protection is a cave, ditch, canyon or head-high clumps of trees in open forest glades.
  • When there is no shelter, avoid the highest object in the area. If only isolated trees are nearby, your best protection is to crouch in the open, keeping twice as far away from isolated trees as the trees are high.
  • Avoid hilltops, open spaces, wire fences, metal clothes lines, exposed sheds and any electrically conductible elevated objects.
  • When you feel an electrical charge, if your hair stands on end or your skin tingles,lightning may be about to strike you. Drop to the ground immediately.