2013 has seen 7 lightning related deaths; Summer is peak lightning season

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Monday, June 24, 2013 - 1:47pm

NOAA's National Weather Service has deemed June 23-29: Lightning Safety Awareness Week. They want to highlight the dangers of lightning and how to stay safe during a storm.

Daily afternoon thunderstorms are not out of the ordinary for south Louisiana during the summer season. These storms are not usually long-lived, but they can still bring heavy downpours, gusty winds, and frequent lightning strikes. The summer months are the peak for lightning strikes in the nation. According to the NWS, an average of 53 people are killed each year by lightning, and hundreds more are severely injured.

To date, there have been 7 lightning fatalities in 2013: two in Florida and Illinois; one in Louisiana, Missouri and Texas. Almost 50 percent of lightning strike deaths have been in or near bodies of water.

The one lightning fatality from Louisiana occured May 10, 2013 on a boat near Lake Charles. Cleve Menard, 41, was fishing with his brother-in-law at Lacassine Wildlife Refuge, when a storm quickly rolled in over the area. While heading to seek shelter under a bridge, Menard was struck by a lightning bolt at the front of the boat and was pronounced brain dead a day later.

When it comes to outdoor lightning safety, the National Weather Service says there are not many safe places to be outside. They recommend seeking shelter inside a car or sturdy structure for 30 minutes after hearing the last clap of thunder.

Here are more lightning safety tips from the National Weather Service:

Lightning: What You Need to Know

  • NO PLACE outside is safe when thunderstorms are in the area!!
  • If you hear thunder, lightning is close enough to strike you.
  • When you hear thunder, immediately move to safe shelter: a substantial building with electricity or plumbing or an enclosed, metal-topped vehicle with windows up.
  • Stay in safe shelter at least 30 minutes after you hear the last sound of thunder.

Indoor Lightning Safety

  • Stay off corded phones, computers and other electrical equipment that put you in direct contact with electricity.
  • Avoid plumbing, including sinks, baths and faucets.
  • Stay away from windows and doors, and stay off porches.
  • Do not lie on concrete floors, and do not lean against concrete walls.

Last Resort Outdoor Risk Reduction Tips

  • If you are caught outside with no safe shelter anywhere nearby the following actions may reduce your risk:
  • Immediately get off elevated areas such as hills, mountain ridges or peaks
  • Never lie flat on the ground
  • Never shelter under an isolated tree
  • Never use a cliff or rocky overhang for shelter
  • Immediately get out and away from ponds, lakes and other bodies of water
  • Stay away from objects that conduct electricity (barbed wire fences, power lines, windmills, etc.) 

Review more tips and facts from the National Weather Service here.

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