This summer marks the tenth annual Lightning Safety Awareness Campaign. The annual event is sponsored by the NOAA and National Weather Service to increase awareness about the dangers of lighting and provide the US public with useful information about decreasing risk involved with lighting injury and property damage. This year's slogan is "When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors," and emphasizes the importance of going indoors before rain even begins and staying indoors until 30 minutes after the last thunderclap.
Nine people have so far died this summer from lightning. Organizers are focusing on Florida this year for their message, particularly in the Tampa Bay area, which is the lightning capital of the United States. Brian LaMarre, lead meteorologist with the NWS in Tampa explained the emphasis on Florida.
"This time of year, lightning is the No. 1 weather killer across Florida," he said, "more so than hurricanes and tornadoes combined. People must pay attention to weather forecasts in planning their outdoor activities. If thunderstorms are in the forecast, outdoor activities such as boating might not be a good idea."
Water activities are especially risky during thunderstorms, and swimmers, fisherman, boaters and surfers are at increased risk of harm. Donna Franklin, director of the NWS Lightning Safety Awareness Team stressed the importance of lighting safety. While lighting is a natural phenomenon beyond human control, a bit of prudence can a person's life, especially if a person is aware of the increased risks associated with lightning strikes.
"Every year there are needless deaths and injuries due to lightning and many of these victims are merely steps away from lightning safety," she explained. "Risk reduction should include having a plan and getting to safety well before lightning strikes."
FOr more information about the dangers of lightning and learning how to minimize risk, please read Ryan Campell's primer on lightning safety.