...Lightning Facts and Safety Rules...
written by NWS El Paso


THERE ARE AN ESTIMATED 25 MILLION CLOUD-TO-GROUND LIGHTNING FLASHES 
EACH YEAR.  WHILE LIGHTNING CAN BE FASCINATING TO WATCH...IT IS ALSO 
EXTREMELY DANGEROUS.  DURING THE PAST 30 YEARS THROUGH 2003... 
LIGHTNING HAS KILLED AN AVERAGE OF 66 AMERICANS AND INJURED ANOTHER 
300.  THE NUMBER OF AMERICANS KILLED BY LIGHTNING TYPICALLY EXCEEDS 
THE NUMBER OF DEATHS RESULTING FROM BOTH TORNADOES AND HURRICANES. 

MOST LIGHTNING-CAUSED DEATHS OCCUR DURING THE SPRING AND SUMMER MONTHS 
WHEN THE FREQUENCY OF THUNDERSTORMS AND OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES PEAK.  
DURING THE PAST 40 YEARS...TEXAS RANKED SECOND IN THE COUNTRY BEHIND 
FLORIDA IN TOTAL NUMBER OF LIGHTNING FATALITIES.  

BY DEFINITION...ALL THUNDERSTORMS PRODUCE LIGHTNING AND DURING A 
THUNDERSTORM EACH FLASH OF CLOUD-TO-GROUND LIGHTNING IS A POTENTIAL 
KILLER.  ALTHOUGH SOME VICTIMS ARE STRUCK DIRECTLY BY THE MAIN VISIBLE 
LIGHTNING STROKE...MOST ARE AFFECTED BY NEARBY STRIKES AS THE CURRENT 
MOVES IN AND ALONG THE GROUND.  BECAUSE OF THESE INDIRECT STRIKES... 
MOST VICTIMS SURVIVE...THOUGH OFTEN WITH LIFELONG PAINFUL EFFECTS.  
WHILE VIRTUALLY ALL PEOPLE TAKE SOME PROTECTIVE ACTION DURING A 
THUNDERSTORM...MANY UNKNOWINGLY LEAVE THEMSELVES VULNERABLE.

LIGHTNING CAN STRIKE AS FAR AS 10 MILES AWAY FROM THE RAIN AREA IN A 
THUNDERSTORM...WHICH IS ABOUT THE DISTANCE FROM A STORM THAT YOU ARE 
ABLE TO HEAR THE THUNDER.  IF YOU CAN HEAR THE THUNDER THEN YOU ARE 
WITHIN STRIKING DISTANCE OF THAT STORM.  ALSO...WHEN YOU CAN CLEARLY 
HEAR THUNDER IN AN URBAN SETTING ABOVE THE CITY NOISE...IT IS TIME TO 
ABANDON OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES.	

FOLLOW THE 30/30 LIGHTNING SAFETY RULE WHEN THUNDERSTORMS THREATEN 
YOUR AREA.  GO INDOORS IF AFTER SEEING LIGHTNING YOU CANNOT COUNT TO 
30 BEFORE HEARING THUNDER.  THIS METHOD MAY BE TOO DIFFICULT IF 
LIGHTNING FROM AN APPROACHING STORM IS VERY FREQUENT AND THUNDER IS 
NEARLY CONSTANT.  JUST HEAD INDOORS.  THEN STAY INDOORS FOR 30 MINUTES 
AFTER HEARING THE LAST CLAP OF THUNDER.  DO NOT PREMATURELY RESUME 
OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES AS THE STORM MOVES AWAY.  FOLLOWING THESE 
GUIDELINES WILL CONTRIBUTE GREATLY TO YOUR SAFETY FROM THE DEADLY 
BEAUTY OF LIGHTNING.

USA.gov is the U.S. government's official web portal to all federal, state and local government web resources and services.