WASHINGTON — Lightning can be a beautiful thing to watch. But the spectacular views it can create also comes with a deadly risk for those who are stuck outside in it while doing activities or with no place to find cover.
Over the last ten years, lightning strikes have killed an average of 24 Americans. You might think hurricanes are responsible for more deaths but that is not the case. The ten-year average of deaths caused by hurricanes is only eight.
We are most likely to be struck when doing leisure activities. The top three activities are soccer, golf and running, in that order.
Fishing is also a very dangerous activity during a thunderstorm. From 2007- 2017 fishing was the number one leisure activity resulting in lightning deaths. In that span, a total of 352 fishing-related lightning deaths were recorded nationwide.
Urbanization reduced the number of lightning deaths with fewer farmers out in their fields plowing their land. The industrialization has also reduced the number of fatalities because farmers now use massive tractors that offer protection from lightning strikes.
Yes, you are safe from lightning in your car but maybe not for the reason you think. It's not because of the rubber tires of the car, but a vehicle's metal frame that can disperse the lightning.
Did you know that there are three types of lightning?
We often think that cloud-to-ground lightning is the only type of lightning, but it is not.
The three types of lightning are cloud to cloud lightning, cloud to ground lightning, and ground to cloud to air lightning.
The National Weather Service has coined the phrase "when thunder roars go indoors." This slogan has reduced the number of lightning fatalities. The average yearly number of deaths from lightning strikes in the 1940s was a staggering 329.
Fred Laughlin, a Landon parent, was among the spectators at the Landon vs St Albans lacrosse game on May 18, 1991. The St. Albans players had cleared the field and they were safe in their locker room. The Landon players were also safe on their team bus.
The spectators, on the other hand, broke the cardinal rule: and took refuge under an enormous tree. The bolt hit the tree and spread out through the branches and roots. Fred was holding a small umbrella that he claimed save his life by dispersing the electricity around him.
When WUSA9 spoke to Laughlin, he told us that his house keys became so hot they burned imprints on his leg and his shoes were blown out. Laughlin lied unconscious for a couple of minutes and was revived and later recovered fully.
Noah Eig, a Landon student, was the only fatality, but as many as thirty bodies were scattered underneath that huge tree after the strike.
Bottom line: know when storms are possible or occurring in your area; download our app so you can check on the path of the storm(s); when you hear thunder go indoors and wait at least 30 minutes with no re-occurring sounds of thunder before you venture outside again.
To learn more about the dangers of lightning, read more from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) here.