The week of June 22-28, 2014, is the 14th Lightning Safety Week. The average number of lightning deaths in the U.S. continues to decline from around 52 fatalties per year (1983-2012) down to 35 for the 2003-2012 time period. In 2013, there were 23 lightning fatalities. Certainly, these statistics indicate great progress, but in Wyoming it remains the deadliest storm-related phenomena. Also, lightning injures many more people than it kills and leaves some victims with life-long health problems.
The wide open spaces and mountain vistas of Wyoming remain among the deadliest locations nationwide when considering the Cowboy State's population. In fact, between 1959 and 2013 the death rate per million people in Wyoming was tops in the nation. The border states of Colorado, Utah, and Montana also ranked in the top ten. Another eye-catching national statistic is the fact that over 80% of lightning victims are male. This has been the case since lightning deaths were first tracked beginning in 1959.
Understanding the dangers of lightning is important so you can get to a safe place when thunderstorms threaten. It is important that everyone, perhaps especially men, remember that "When thunder roars go indoors!" If you hear thunder--even a distant rumble or a crackling aloft--you are already in danger of becoming a lightning victim. Severe weather knows no boundaries and affects every individual, but that does not mean we wave the white flag and bow to nature’s whim. It means now is the time for bold preparedness actions.
The mountains of Wyoming are a particularly dangerous place to be when lightning is around. All three lightning-related fatalities in 2010 occurred in Wyoming's mountainous terrain. Many mountain recreationalists are many miles from the nearest substantial shelter or even a vehicle to retreat to in the event of a lightning storm. The National Weather Service and NOLS recently teamed to produce a Lightning Risk Management brochure specifically intended for backcountry campers and hikers. Some highlights from that brochure are:
Learn more about what is meant by "safer terrain," first aid for lightning victims, and the dangers of caves by reading the brochure.
NOAA’s National Weather Service and its partners are doing just that by highlighting the importance of lightning safety awareness this severe weather season and calling on you to “Be a Force of Nature.” Knowing your risk, taking action, and being an example are just a few steps you can take to be better prepared and assist in saving lives.
Join us in becoming “A Force of Nature,” and follow these steps to increase your lightning safety.
Know your risk: The best way to protect yourself from lightning is to avoid the threat. You simply don’t want to be caught outside in a storm. Check the weather forecast regularly, sign up for local alerts from emergency management officials, and get an All Hazards NOAA Weather Radio.
Take action: When thunder roars, go indoors! Have a lightning safety plan, and cancel or postpone activities early if thunderstorms are expected. Get to a safe place before the weather becomes threatening. Substantial buildings and hard-topped vehicles are safe options. Rain shelters, small sheds, and open vehicles are NOT safe. Once indoors, do not use corded phones and don’t touch plumbing, and electrical equipment such as computers and kitchen appliances.
Be a force of nature: Building a Weather-Ready Nation requires the action of each and every one of us. Once you have taken action, tell your family, friends, school staff, and co-workers about how they can avoid the danger of lightning. Studies show that individuals need to receive messages a number of ways before acting – be one of those sources. Social media provides is a good way to model preparedness actions for others.