Deaths from lightning strikes declining, expert says

Local News

DOTHAN, Ala. (WDHN) — Lightning strikes are a common occurrence in the wiregrass, especially during the summer months.

There have been 13 fatalities across the nation this year, and two of those have been in Alabama.

In the south, thunderstorms happen almost every day from June through August. Lightning strikes occur most frequently in Florida.

“We get storms year-round and we have a ton of outdoor activities including golf courses and beaches,” Meteorologist Tom Johnstone said.

No matter if you work outdoors or are just caught in the brunt of mother nature, there are several things you can do to protect yourself.

“Avoid open areas, avoid outdoor areas, get inside and stay away from windows,” Johnstone said.

In some cases, lightning can strike over 10 miles outside of a thunderstorm.

“If you can see lightning, and hear thunder you’re close enough to be struck absolutely,” Johnstone said.

If you are nowhere near an indoor facility, automobiles offer a safe place to take shelter.

“The vast majority of automobiles are metal so what happens is when a lightning strikes an automobile, the electrical current goes around the vehicle as opposed to through the vehicle,” Johnstone said.

There was a recent lightning strike fatality just last week in Gulf Shores, but overall, lightning strike fatalities have been declining.

“It’s been a success story over the last 30 or 40 years where lightning fatalities have been steadily dropping,” Johnstone said. “We’re still between 40 and 50 fatalities per year nationwide.”

The forecast over the next week calls for a chance of showers and storms, so when the thunder roars, go indoors.

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