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Lightning Safety Awareness Week
June 22-28, 2008

 

lightning kills - play it safe! Lightning is one of the leading causes of weather deaths in the United States. In Georgia, at least, 48 people have been killed and perhaps hundreds have been injured by lightning since 1978. In 2005, lightning killed at least 2 and injured 28. On August 16, 2005 a thunderstorm at Fort Benning produced lightning that injured 19 soldiers who were outside doing training maneuvers. On July 28, 2005 two deaths occurred at Lake Lanier when a 14-year old girl and the infant she was holding were struck. Lightning first struck the tree underneath which they had sought shelter, and then the bolt ran down the tree and hit them.

In 2004, five Georgians died and at least 20 others were injured. On May 17, 2004 two construction workers died in separate incidents in Fulton and Paulding counties... and on June 27, three died and six others were injured after being struck during a weekend outing at Lake Lanier in Hall County.

Because lightning usually claims only one or two victims at a time, and because lightning does not cause the mass destruction left in the wake of tornadoes or hurricanes, this natural hazard generally receives much less attention than the more destructive weather-related killers. That may partially explain why people often don't react promptly to the threat of being struck when thunderstorms are nearby.

Education could be the key to solving the problem of risky behavior that leads to people being struck by lightning. That is the purpose of Lightning Safety Awareness Week.

Lightning stikes a tree
Lightning striking a tree

Lightning results from the buildup and release of electrical energy between positive and negative charges between the earth and a thunderstorm. A single lightning bolt can be as hot as 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit - hotter even than the surface of the sun. This rapid heating and cooling of the air creates a shock wave which we hear as thunder. Lightning will usually strike the highest object in area. This includes trees, antennas, a boat on a lake, or a person standing in a field.

While lightning can strike year round, the primary season in Georgia is Summer when more people tend to spend more time outdoors. No place outside is safe near a thunderstorm. Unfortunately, the increase in the amount of time people spend outdoors happens to coincide with the months when thunderstorms most often occur. On average, 10% of strike victims die and 70% of strike survivors suffer serious permanent disabilities.

There is a wealth of information on the National Lightning Safety Awareness web page.

Lightning in Georgia Brochure

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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