The number of lightning fatalities in our region is amongst the top in the nation.
It's that time of the year again. Wet weather mainly comes in the form of thunderstorms in the Mid-Atlantic. While we focus a lot on severe thunderstorms that contain damaging wind, hail and tornadoes, a storm only needs lightning to become deadly.
This week is National Lightning Awareness Week, always a good time to be reminded about our safety rules. As I was pouring through some "fun facts" about lightning to pique your interest, my attention was drawn to a relatively new statistic from Vaisala (a lightning detection company) that shows Maryland in the top ten states of lightning fatalities with 126 deaths in the past 50 years.
There are fewer in the state of Virginia, but it is a serious risk in the Commonwealth and D.C. as well. Virginia averages 35-45 thunderstorms days per year with peak activity in June, July and August.
(Virginia Lightning Statistics)
Some other interesting lightning statistics show that 80 percent of lightning victims are men who are doing some type of leisure activity, 37 percent of which are water related.
While the science behind lightning is cool, I want to focus on safety because I think the risk of lightning is underrated and often ignored. If you're a science geek like me and want to know more about how lightning occurs, check out this link.Have you ever been at the pool or at a sporting event and everyone around you seems to be ignoring the sound of thunder? This has happened to me many times. You just have to encourage others to seek shelter with you and they will follow suit the large majority of the time. The motto on lightning safety from the National Weather Service is a good one: When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors! No place outside is safe, especially not under trees or in water. You should wait 30 minutes after the last sound of thunder before you can safely go back outside.
(Lightning Safety Outdoors)
When indoors during a lightning storm, stay away from windows, doors and porches. Don't touch electrical equipment or cords. Avoid plumbing, including washing your hands, taking a bath or washing the dishes (I never need an excuse to shy away from that last one). One of my favorite tools to use during threatening weather is the StormWatch 7 App. You can download it here if you don't already have it. I also love this new website with real time lightning displayed on an interactive map that you can zoom in on anywhere in the U.S. So, the next time you find yourself caught outside when thunder roars, make sure you go indoors. And tell your friend or neighbor who may be reluctant to do so, that you'd rather not get hit by something that is 5 times hotter than the surface of the sun and can light up a compact fluorescent light bulb for an entire year.