Summer is the peak season for lightning, one of weather's most deadly occurrences. On average over the past 50 years, at least one Kansan has died from a lightning each year. In response to this, Gov. Sam Brownback signed a proclamation June 24, declaring June 19-25, 2011, as Lightning Safety Awareness Week.
Each year, more than 400 people in the United States are struck by lightning while working outside, at sports events, on the beach, out at the lake, mowing the lawn or during other outdoor activities. On average, 58 people are killed each year by lightning In the United States and several hundred more left with permanent disabilities. To date, there has been 1 death in 2011. In 2010 there were 29 lightning related fatalities in the U.S., one of which was in Kansas.
Johnson County Emergency Management in conjunction with the Kansas Division of Emergency Management, National Weather Service and American Red Cross have joined forces to create the Lightning Safety Awareness Campaign called "When it Roars, Go Indoors". These groups provide the information below and tips to help people stay safe when lightning strikes.
Many deaths from lightning occur because people wait too long before seeking shelter. If you can hear thunder, lightning is close enough that it could strike your location at any moment, and often strikes as far away as 10 miles from any rainfall. Every flash of lightning is dangerous, even the first, because lightning can travel sideways from the storm. Even when the sky looks clear, be cautious. At least 10 percent of lightning occurs without visible clouds overhead in the sky. Look for dark cloud bases and increasing winds, and head to safety before the first flash of lightning.
The most dangerous place to be in the event of a storm is outside. Seek shelter in a sturdy, closed building that contains a mechanism for conducting the electrical current from the point of contact to the ground. Avoid sheds, picnic shelters, baseball dugouts, bleachers, open carports, garages and covered patios, which are not safe from lightning strikes. If no enclosed building is accessible, get inside a hard-topped, all-metal vehicle.
If you can't get to a sturdy shelter, crouch down low in an open area. Stay at least twice as far away from trees as they are tall. Since water is an excellent conductor of electricity, avoid standing in or near puddles. Also, remember to avoid holding anything that will conduct or attract lightning, such as golf clubs, or fishing poles.