From the ABC 7 Weather team

Lightning at SeaWorld injures 8; nationwide fatalities at 19

August 17, 2011 - 03:04 PM
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Visitors and employees were blasted with lightning on Wednesday at SeaWorld's Discovery Cove water park, but seem to be doing OK now. What about those who aren't?

A dolphin, courtesy of Flickr's Just Taken Pics.

A barrage of lightning ended the fun earlier today at SeaWorld's Discovery Cove water park, the famous attraction where normal Joes can swim with dolphins. Three visitors and five employees who were working at the aptly named Adventure Photo Shop were zapped by what appeared to be a nondirect hit. Reports Orlando's Channel 13 News:

"We all cleared the pool and we are all sheltering underneath, then there’s a huge crack," said Peter Mcentee.

"Lightning struck right over our heads and you could feel it. It was quite a blast," said Bob Delvecchi, another guest at Discovery Cove.

The injuries were not life-threatening and everyone's out of the hospital now, according to a SeaWorld spokesman. This latest strike demonstrates Florida's top position as the most lightningest state of them all, which you can see illustrated in the U.S. map in this post. This year, however, Missouri is leading the pack in fatal strikes:

nws lightning fatalities 2011

For the stat-obsessed, in 2011 death has come the most to men, to people aged between 50 and 59, and often on Saturdays. More data is available at the National Weather Service's lightning safety page.

The last time StormWatch 7 checked the lightning stats in mid-July, there had been 10 fatalities. The death toll is now up to 19, creeping closer every day to the historical average of 55 fatalities per year. Among others, bolts have lain low a man chopping cotton in Arkansas, two women tubing on Michigan's Au Sable River and, almost unbelievably, a motorcyclist hit while cruising down a South Dakota interstate. According to the Aberdeen News:

Kurt Lee Stolba, 57, of Wilton, Iowa, was eastbound on I-90 on a 2008 Harley Davidson motorcycle. Witnesses reported that a bolt of lightning struck Stolba. His motorcycle drifted to the right shoulder of the roadway and struck the guard rail.

Stolba, who wasn’t wearing a helmet, was thrown from the motorcycle. He died while being transported to a Rapid City hospital.

Wearing a helmet is always a must when you're on a motorcycle. But in this case, it might not have made a difference. R.I.P., Harley guy.

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