OUR VIEW: Staying safe during lightning

Published 12:30 pm Friday, July 22, 2022

As we’re writing this, the weather outside is terrible.  The thunderstorms that rolled through our area on Thursday brought heavy rain, wind and lightning. It was your typical southern summer thunderstorm, and they always seem to roll in quickly, ruining previously pretty days.

While thunder can be startling, it’s really lightning that is terrifying and potentially deadly.

Did you know there are about 25 million cloud to ground lightning strikes in the United States each year, according to the National Weather Service.

And, over the last 30 years, the U.S. has averaged 51 lightning fatalities per year. The NWS says only about 10% of people struck by lightning die, but the other 90% must cope with varying degrees of discomfort and disability, sometimes for the rest of their lives.

The NWS recommends these tips for when it’s lightning outside:

  • Don’t use corded phones: Using a corded phone during a thunderstorm is one of the leading causes of indoor lightning injuries.
  • However, it is safe to use cordless or cell phones as long as they are not being charged.
  • Stay away from windows and doors: Sitting on an open porch to watch a thunderstorm is also dangerous. It is best to be in an interior room during a thunderstorm.
  • Don’t touch electrical equipment or cords: Any device that uses electricity (e.g. computers, televisions, household appliances, etc.) is susceptible to a lightning strike. Electrical surges caused by lightning can damage electronics (even at some distance from the actual strike), and a typical surge protector will do little to protect the device (or the person using it) if lightning should strike. So consider unplugging certain appliances or electronics, but for your own safety do this BEFORE the storm arrives.
  • Avoid plumbing: Metal plumbing and the water inside are both very good conductors of electricity. Therefore, do not wash your hands or dishes, take a shower or bath, do laundry, etc. during a thunderstorm.