WEATHER

Can lightning tragedies be prevented?

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On June 3rd, 2009, as severe weather approached Fredericksburg, a little league baseball game in the area was called.

As the players left the field, lightning struck, killing a 12-year-old.

In 2010, a man was struck and killed at an outdoor event in Rockville. The same day, another man was hit and killed while riding a personal watercraft in Annapolis.

And one of the most devastating lightning strikes in this region happened in 1991: A bolt of lightning struck 12 people taking shelter under a stand of trees at a Landon-Saint Albans lacrosse game.

A 15-year-old Landon student was killed and 11 others were injured.

Could lightning-related tragedies like these be prevented?

ABC7’s weather bug partners are working to do just that.

They're installing lightning detection systems at outdoor venues across the region and worldwide that provide advance warning of approaching lightning, so people can get to safety before lighting strikes.

The system is in place at more than 100 local venues, including congressional country club in Bethesda, where lightning detection monitors are scattered throughout the grounds.

When a lightning strike is detected within a 15-mile radius, sirens go off to warn golfers to take shelter.

Lightning deaths are the most common in summer, particularly in July, when on average 16 people are killed nationwide.

But recent statistics show an encouraging trend: The annual death rate from lightning is dropping, which could be thanks in part to technology like this.

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