Lightning kills more people than twisters

Published 11:36 pm Thursday, February 18, 2016

Editor’s Note: This week, Feb. 14-19, has been declared Severe Weather Awareness Week by Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley. This is the second part in a four-part series on severe weather preparedness. 

The summer months are the deadliest as far as lightning is concerned. In an average year, three people will be struck and killed by lightning in Alabama and at least six more will be injured.

According to NOAA, over the last 20 years, the United States averaged 51 annual lightning strike fatalities, placing it in the second position, just behind floods for most weather-related deaths.

Email newsletter signup

During lightning storms, move inside a well constructed home, a large building or an all-metal vehicle. Stay away from electrical appliances and do not use the telephone.

If you are in a boat, get off the water and into a substantial building, or at least into an enclosed and all-metal vehicle with the windows up.

If you don’t have time to get off the water, lie down in the boat with cushions between you and the metal sides and bottom.

If you are caught outdoors and are too far away from shelter, you should crouch down low but do not lie flat on the ground. Avoid isolated trees and stay away from the tallest trees. If in the woods, pick a small grove of trees as your shelter and stand at least five feet away from the trunk of the nearest tree.

Move away from motorcycles, scooters, golf carts, bicycles, tractors and other metal farm equipment. Avoid wire fences, clotheslines, metal pipes and drains, railroad tracks and any other metal surfaces. Avoid standing in a small isolated shed or other small, ungrounded structure.

If you are with a group of people in an open area and cannot get to shelter, spread out before you take last-ditch efforts.

The best advice is to check the forecast and watch the sky for storm development and not put yourself in a situation where you are out in the open during a lightning storm.