ATLANTA, Ga. -- This week is the 12th Annual Lightning Safety Awareness Week, and it couldn't come at a more necessary time. Earlier today fifteen men were impacted after lightning struck the Lake of Isles golf course in North Stonington, Connecticut.
The 15 men were conducting maintenance on the golf course when around 9:30 a.m. when they saw lightning in the distance. They did the right thing and went to one of the three shelters on the golf course. Moments later, lightning hit the ground nearby, and while it did not strike the men or the building they were in, they still had impacts from the lightning as it dispersed along the ground. All were taken to nearby hospitals, but only two of them had noticeable physical injuries. All but three were later released from the hospital this afternoon.
We have an estimated 25 million cloud-to-ground lightning flashes each year in the U.S., and we all know it only takes one to threaten life and/or property. Just last year 26 people were killed by lightning in the U.S. with hundreds more injured, and dozens who were permanently injured. Lightning can strike more than 10 miles from the rain area of a thunderstorm. That distance is about as far as you can hear thunder. If you can hear thunder, you could be in danger of being struck by lightning.
So who does lightning "target" mostly, and what can you do to prevent it?
Breaking down the lightning fatalities over the years reveals these demographics:
- 100 percent were outdoors
- 76 percent were men
- 34 percent were standing underneath a tree
- 24 percent were on or near the water
- Georgia is the 8th highest state in terms of density of lightning strikes per square mile.
- Property damage estimates from 2000-2007 indicate around $50 million damages due to lightning.
- Georgia had the second highest number of lightning injuries last year with a total of 26, but thankfully we had no lightning fatalities in GA last year.
- The lightning strikes from thunderstorms in June, July, and August account for over half of all injuries and deaths, and over 75% of property damage annually.
- Lightning is the 3 leading cause for weather deaths in Georgia.
Georgia Emergency Management Agency's program, Ready Georgia, recommends the following tips:
- If you can hear thunder, you are close enough to the storm to be struck by lightning. Go to safe shelter immediately.
- If a storm does approach, find shelter in a sturdy building or hard top automobile. Keep all windows closed.
- Telephone lines and metal pipes can conduct electricity. Unplug appliances. Avoid using the telephone or any electrical appliances.
- Avoid taking a bath or shower, or running water for any purpose. Plumbing and bathroom fixtures can conduct electricity.
- Draw blinds and shades over windows. If windows break due to objects blown by the wind, the shades will help prevent glass from shattering into your home.
- Turn off the air conditioner. Power surges from lightning can overload the compressor, resulting in a costly repair job.
- If you are caught outside and cannot find shelter, go to a low-lying, open place away from trees, poles or metal objects. Make sure the place you pick is not subject to flooding.
- Is someone is struck by lightning; they carry no electrical charge and can be handled safely. Call 911 or your local Emergency Medical Services (EMS) number. Learn first aid and CPR by taking an American Red Cross first aid and CPR course.