South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

Here's advice for staying safe in thunder storm


August 2, 2005

Every year in the United States about 100 people are killed by lightning, according to National Weather Service statistics, and, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more people are killed by lightning than by other natural disasters, such as hurricanes and tornadoes.

Among the trends the CDC notes: most deaths occur in men. The afternoon and early evening is the most dangerous time, with roughly 75 percent of all fatalities occurring during these times. The most common cases of lighting injuries involve individuals participating in outdoor activities.

In addition to burns, lightning strike survivors report common long-term effects such as hearing, vision, or memory loss; attention deficits; sleep disorders; numbness; muscle spasms; fatigue; and weakness.

Mercy physicians and severe weather experts believe that most lightning injuries and fatalities can be prevented by taking several simple precautions. Most importantly, review the following tips and discuss in advance what to do in an emergency.

Don't wait for thunder or lightning to strike. Most lightning strikes before rain is actually felt.

If indoors, unplug electrical appliances. Stay away from windows, doors, and all types of electrical appliances. Stay clear of indoor water sources and metal piping, such as sinks, bathtubs, and faucets. Do not use the telephone except for emergencies.

If outdoors, suspend activities and avoid open spaces. Stay clear of tall objects, such as trees, and water. Stay away from metal objects such as bicycles, golf carts, fencing, power tools, and yard machinery.

Seek shelter in a fully enclosed building or vehicle, and keep the windows and doors closed. If shelter isn't a possibility, spread out – do not stand in a crowd of people; crouch down, making your body as small as possible, and cover your ears to protect your hearing from nearby thunder.

If someone is struck by lightning, administer first aid and call emergency medical services.


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