Lightning Safety Week June 21-27!

This week, June 21 through June 27 is Lightning Safety Week! Lightning is one of the biggest storm related killers. It is an underrated killer. Lightning fatalities generally don't get the headlines that tornadoes, flood, and hurricanes get because lightning can occur with rather benign storms, and lightning tends to take its victims one by one. Summer is when most lightning casualties occur because more people are outdoors for work and recreation, and the warm season is when thunderstorms are most common. Please take a few minutes to review this important lightning safety information. 

 

Lightning Fatalities
 
Summer is a time of year when many people are outdoors working and playing. But it is also the time of year when thunderstorms are most frequent.  The following national lightning fatality statistics for 2008 were compiled by John Jensenius, NWS Portland Maine.
 

Number
Date
Day of Week
State
City
Age
Sex
Location
Activity
01
1/11/2008
Friday
SC
Aiken
56
F
Outside, near building
Taking a break from work
02
2/5/2008
Tuesday
OH
Lewisville
60
M
Open field
Tending cows
03
5/22/2008
Thursday
AR
Little Rock
17
M
Under tree
Standing outside house
04
5/24/2008
Saturday
KS
Vassar
20
M
Under trees
Camping
05
6/7/2008
Saturday
CT
Madison
23
M
Pavilion
Seeking shelter from rain
06
6/11/2008
Wednesday
IA
Curlew
20
M
In yard at home
 
07
6/14/2008
Saturday
PA
Tobyhanna
17
M
Lake
Swimming
08
6/15/2008
Sunday
FL
Bristol
6
F
Under tree
Camping
09
6/20/2008
Friday
MA
Haverhill
47
M
Under trees
Hiking in park
10
6/21/2008
Saturday
FL
Choctaw Beach
21
M
In boat on bay
Fishing
11
6/21/2008
Saturday
FL
Choctaw Beach
17
M
In boat on bay
Fishing
12
6/24/2008
Tuesday
RI
Bristol
42
M
On jetty
Fishing
13
6/26/2008
Thursday
OH
Collins
51
F
In yard under tree
Walking
14
7/3/2008
Thursday
CO
Westcliffe
16
M
Outside open
Riding bicycle
15
7/5/2008
Saturday
SC
Columbia
19
M
On lake
Riding jetski
16
7/6/2008
Sunday
VA
Virginia Beach
23
F
On beach
Jogging
17
7/7/2008
Monday
WI
Watertown
16
M
Under tree in yard
 
18
7/7/2008
Monday
NC
Lea Island
16
M
Under beach house
Boating-fishing/taking shelter
19
7/13/2008
Sunday
MS
Centreville
38
M
Under tree
Talking with others
20
7/13/2008
Sunday
FL
Pensacola Beach
25
M
Near water
Seeking shelter from storm, had been on boat
21
7/15/2008
Tuesday
TX
Grand Prairie
22
M
Open/near lake
Camping, packing vehicle to leave
22
7/18/2008
Friday
ME
Standish
22
M
Outside house
Retrieving eye glasses
23
7/18/2008
Friday
ME
Standish
28
F
Outside house
Retrieving eye glasses
24
7/24/2008
Thursday
CO
Fort Collins
35
M
Under trees
 
25
7/24/2008
Thursday
CO
Fort Collins
33
M
Under trees
 
26
7/27/2008
Sunday
NJ
Sandy Hook
38
M
On beach
 
27
7/28/2008
Monday
CO
Creede
23
M
Open mountain ridge
Shepherd riding mule
28
9/14/2008
Sunday
MO
Ladue
49
F
Outside house, under tree
Tree branch struck by lightning fell on her

2008 National Lightning Fatality Demographics
 
By State
 
In 2008, lightning deaths occurred in 19 states. Florida and Colorado led the nation with 4 fatalities. South Carolina, Maine, and Ohio had 2 fatalities each.
 
FL - 4
CO - 4
OH - 2
SC - 2
ME - 2
KS - 1
AR - 1
CT - 1
IA - 1
PA - 1
RI - 1
MA - 1
VA - 1
WI - 1
NC - 1
MS - 1
TX - 1
NJ - 1
MO – 1
 

 

 

By Sex
 
In 2008, about 80% of the fatalities were male.
 
Male – 22 (79%)
Female – 6 (21%)
 
By Age
 
In 2008, the majority of lightning victims were young. Almost 65% of the victims were under the age of 30.
 
Unknown 1 ( 4%)
 
0-9 - 1(4%)
10-19 - 7 (25%)
20-29 - 10 (36%)
30-39 - 4 (14%)
40-49 - 3 (11%)
50-59 - 2 (7%)
60-69 - 1 (4%)
70-79 - 0 (0%)
80-89 - 0 (0%)
 
Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding.

 

 
By Day Of Week
 
In 2008, Saturday and Sunday had the most lightning fatalities with the two days accounting for about 43% of the fatalities.  
 
Sun - 6 (21%)
Mon - 3 (11%)
Tue - 3 (11%)
Wed - 1 (4%)
Thu - 5 (18%)
Fri - 4 (14%)
Sat - 6 (21%)
 

 

 

By Month
 
In 2008, half of the total number of fatalities occurred in July. Typically, the month of July is the peak in summertime activities, the peak in lightning strikes, and the peak in lightning fatalities. Somewhat surprisingly, 2008 had only one lightning fatality after July, and that was caused when a branch from a tree that had been struck by lightning fell on a woman.
 

 
2006
2007
2008
Normal
January
1
0
1
0
February
0
0
1
0
March
0
1
0
1
April
3
1
0
2
May
5
5
2
7
June
10
12
9
14
July
16
10
14
18
August
7
9
0
13
September
4
5
1
6
October
2
2
0
1
November
0
0
0
0
December
0
0
0
0
Yearly Total
48
45
28
62

 
 
 
 
Note: Normal is based on 30-yr average of 62 deaths per year (1977-2006) multiplied by the average monthly percentage of annual deaths from 1959-1994 as documented in NOAA Technical Memorandum NWS SR-193 with Dec 1961 plane crash fatalities removed from the data.
 
Lightning casualties for northeast IL and northwest IN (1996-2008)
 
 

Date
Time
Location
Age/Sex
Activity
Casualty
5/9/96
1000 PM
Northbrook
Adult male
Walking dog
Killed
5/24/96
145 PM
Chicago Ridge
Adult male
Unloading delivery truck
Inured
5/24/96
445 PM
Cedar Lake, IN
Adult female
Opening car door
Injured
6/17/96
600 PM
Park Ridge
Adult male
Soccer referee
Killed
9/7/96
200 PM
Chicago
9 year old boy
Outside
Injured
9/19/97
300 PM
Carpentersville
Adult male
Changing tire in parking lot
Injured
9/19/97
330 PM
Chicago
13 year old boy
Playing soccer – not raining
Injured
6/18/97
330 PM
Rochelle
Adult male
Near a tree
Injured
5/17/99
1030 AM
LaSalle
5 high school students
4th floor near open window when lightning struck a nearby flagpole
Injured
5/21/00
330 PM
Palos Heights
Adult male
Outside when lightning struck a nearby metal pole
Injured
7/22/01
400 PM
Maywood
Adult woman
Walking through Miller Meadow
Killed
7/23/01
430 PM
Calumet City
Adult male
Sitting on front porch
Injured
8/9/01
750 PM
Capron
16 year old boy
Golf course
Killed
6/3/02
500 PM
Buffalo Grove
2 adult males
On baseball field
One killed, one injured
6/25/02
330 PM
Joliet
Adult male
mail carrier injured when lightning struck a power pole and traveled through ground to metal mail box.
 
Injured
6/25/02
200 PM
Crown Point, IN
2 adult males
working on piece of drilling equipment
Injured
4/4/03
330 PM
O’Hare Airport, Chicago
Adult male
Outside when lightning struck a nearby plane
Injured
7/3/03
300 PM
Elgin
Adult male
Working on a roof
Injured
7/8/03
1230 PM
Oglesby
17 year old boy
In a parking lot
Injured
8/17/04
515 PM
Plainfield
Adult male
Outside
Injured
5/11/05
700 AM
Chicago
Adult male
Unknown
Injured
6/26/05
 
215 PM
Roselle
Adult male and 15 year old boy
In back yard
Boy killed, man injured
7/21/05
 
250 PM
Valparaiso, IN
Adult male
Working at fairgrounds
Injured
6/2/06
330 PM
Elgin
2 adult males
Taking cover under trees at golf course
Both injured, one died 2 days later
8/2/06
930 PM
Chicago
Young girl
Watching TV when lightning struck house
Felt numbness in arm
8/2/06
940 PM
Tinley Park
Adult woman
Washing face when lightning struck house
Mild shock in arm
5/26/07
530 PM
Gary, IN
15 year old boy
Standing near a tree
Injured
10/18/07
700 PM
McCook
14 year old boy
Riding bike
Injured

 
Conclusions;
 
·         90% of the lightning victims were male
·         36% were young people, age 18 and under
·         86% of lightning casualties were from May through August, with June leading the way – 5 injuries and 4 fatalities
·         75% of lightning casualties occurred between noon and 700 PM
·         Most were outside involving work or recreation
 
These lightning casualty statistics come from the NOAA/NWS publication StormData. The primary source of lightning casualty information for StormData is newspaper articles. Studies in Florida and Colorado indicated lightning casualties in StormData may be underreported by 30 to 40 percent.
 
 
Lightning safety;
 
·         Plan ahead and avoid dangerous lightning situations. Check the latest forecast before going outdoors for extended periods. Watch for storms and seek shelter when storms approach.
·         Get inside a substantial building when lightning threatens. Picnic shelters, baseball dugouts, gazebos, and tents may keep you dry for a few minutes, but they do not offer protection from lightning.
·         In a home or building, avoid using a corded telephone (cell phones are okay) or electrical appliances during an active thunderstorm. Do not take a shower. Metal wiring and pipes can conduct electricity.
·         You are safe from lightning in an enclosed metal vehicle. (The steel cage provides protection, not the rubber tires.) Convertibles and golf carts are unsafe in lightning storms. 
·         Lightning is more likely to strike tall objects. If caught outdoors and no shelter is available, find a low spot away from trees, poles and fences. Standing out in the open is dangerous. If you are in the woods, seek shelter in a low area, in a clump of smaller trees or brush, rather than near lone tall trees.
·         If you are swimming or boating, get out of the water immediately.
 
Remember, When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors!
 

For more information, go to www.lightningsafety.noaa.gov

For a PDF version of a Coaches and Sports Officials Guide to Lightning Safety, click here

 


Return to News Archive

USA.gov is the U.S. government's official web portal to all federal, state and local government web resources and services.