Lightning strikes about 25 million times every year in the United States. It's a very interesting weather phenomenon, but one that can be potentially deadly as well.
In the updraft of a thunderstorm, precipitation of different densities becomes positively and negatively charged. As a response to this, charges build up on the ground as well. When this build up of charges becomes too great, a rapid discharge of electricity occurs. This is what we know as lightning.
Based on data collected from 1959 to 2004, Florida lead the country in deaths and injuries due to lightning with over 2100 cases. The second most was North Carolina, with less than half of that total. This dramatic difference is due to the higher frequency in which thunderstorms occur here in Florida. This can be attributed to the afternoon sea breezes developing off of the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico.
When thunderstorms are in the area, no place outside is safe. You may have heard the saying "when thunder roars, go indoors". It's a simple rule of thumb that will keep you safe. If you can't make it to a substantial indoor shelter, a hard-topped metal vehicle will also provide good protection.
Lightning safety out on the water is a bit different. First and foremost if storms are in the forecast, don't head out. If you happen to be out on the water and get caught off guard by a storm, and cannot make it back to shore safely, drop anchor and lie down as flat as possible in your boat. Larger boats with cabins will provide a relatively safe shelter.
The most important thing is staying weather aware. Know what's going on around you and execute the proper precautions when necessary. It's always better to be safe, rather than sorry.
If you ever have any questions regarding lightning safety, or how to stay safe during any other threatening weather event, feel free to contact a member of the 13 First Alert Storm Team.
Meteorologist Tyler Eliasen: firstname.lastname@example.org
Meteorologist Justin Kiefer: email@example.com
Meteorologist Jerry Tabatt: firstname.lastname@example.org