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What Are The Dangers Of Lightning?

Lightning is the underrated killer. In the United States, 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, lightning killed an average of 73 people per year in the United States based on documented cases. This is more than the average of 68 deaths per year caused by tornadoes and the average of 16 deaths per year caused by hurricanes. However, 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, lightning generally receives much less attention than the more destructive weather-related killers. While documented lightning injuries in the United States average about 300 per year, undocumented injuries caused by lightning are likely much higher.

Lightning can strike as much as 10 miles away from the rain area in a thunderstorm; that's about the distance that you are able to hear the thunder from the storm. In some instances when a storm is ten miles away, it may even be difficult to tell that a storm is nearby. However, IF YOU CAN HEAR THE THUNDER FROM A STORM, CHANCES ARE THAT YOU ARE WITHIN STRIKING DISTANCE OF THAT STORM. Also, remember that each thunderstorm has a first stroke of lightning, which is just as deadly as any other stroke. If the sky looks threatening, take shelter before hearing thunder.

In the unfortunate event that a person is struck by lightning, medical care may be needed immediately to save the person's life. Cardiac arrest and irregularities, burns, and nerve damage are common in cases where people are struck by lightning. However, with proper treatment, including CPR if necessary, most victims survive a lightning strike, although the long-term effects on their lives and the lives of family members can be devastating.


Fact Credit:
NOAA National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration

Further Reading
All About Lightning
by Martin A. Uman

Related Web Links
Storm Watch

Questions and Answers About Lightning

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