Think a lightning strike won’t happen to you? It’s more likely than winning the lottery

With plenty of summer left, lightning deaths nearly equal last year’s total in U.S.

He was fishing with his two young sons when Egan Blain Stanley was struck by lightning. Four days later, the 37-year-old died at Grady Memorial Hospital. 

The Dalton resident became the 12th person killed by lightning this year in the U.S. when he died Sunday.

On Tuesday, a Florida man was killed by lightning, and on Thursday, an Alabama woman died two weeks after being struck. The 14 deaths are just two shy of the 2017 total of 16 deaths, and hundreds of others were injured last year. And Georgia meteorologists warn there are still plenty of summer storms on the way.

Egan Stanley (far right) was fatally struck by lightning on the 4th of July and died from his injuries Monday, according to the GoFundMe page created by Brad Ramsey.
Photo: GoFundMe.com

“July is Georgia’s wettest month of the year,” Glenn Burns, Channel 2 Action News chief meteorologist, said. “We see summer storms almost every day. We track them and also show how much lightning is occurring.”

Think you have a better chance of winning the lottery than getting struck by lightning? Not so, according to statistics from the National Weather Service and the Powerball lottery. There is a 1 in 14,600 chance of being struck by lightning during a lifetime, according to the NWS. Rather win the Powerball grand prize? The chance of that is 1 in 292,201,338. 

Lightning is one of the top storm-related causes of death, coming in behind tornadoes and hurricanes, the NWS says. Lightning strikes were responsible for 40 deaths in 2016, but have declined over a 10-year period, data showed. The average number of deaths a year since 2008 is 28, and June, July and August are when lightning is most likely to kill someone.

 

“The type of ‘pop up’ convective storms we get this time of year can take more people off guard,” Brad Nitz, Channel 2 meteorologist, said. “As the storms develop, the first lightning they produce may come as a surprise because there hadn’t been any lightning up to that point.”

In many cases, people struck by lightning are working outside, mowing the lawn or other house repairs. Other times, such as with Stanley, the hot temperatures bring people outside for recreation. Some people have been struck while trying to get inside during a storm. 

During the summer of 2010, two metro Atlanta teenagers died within two weeks after being struck by lightning in separate incidents. 

In July 2010, cousins Chaquille Hunter and Theresa Seabrum were walking home from a friend’s Cobb County apartment when lightning struck a nearby tree and the teenagers. Chaquille, 16, died from her injuries and Theresa, 14, was critically injured. Two weeks earlier, a Henry County 14-year-old died after being struck while standing under a tree in his neighborhood.

“Lightning can strike five miles, or even more sometimes, away from a thunderstorm,” Nitz said. “As a rule of thumb, if you can hear thunder you are close enough to the storm to be struck by lightning — even if it’s not raining where you are.”

Sophisticated forecasting and technology make it easier to be prepared for storms, Burns said. Even though the steamy summer days bring more people outside, it’s important to monitor the forecast. 

“There is ample warning to take precautions and our weather app alerts people when lightning is in the area,” he said. 

The Severe Weather Team 2 app can be downloaded online on wsbtv.com. Weather alerts are also available through the AJC news app, which can be downloaded at AJC.com.

STAYING SAFE DURING LIGHTNING

1. If you hear thunder, lightning is close enough to strike you. 

2. When you hear thunder, immediately move to safe shelter: a substantial building with electricity or plumbing or an enclosed, metal-topped vehicle with windows up. 

3. Stay in safe shelter at least 30 minutes after you hear the last sound of thunder. 

4. If you’re inside, stay off electrical equipment that puts you in direct contact with electricity and stay away from windows and doors. Avoid sinks, baths and faucets. 

5. If you’re caught outside with no safe shelter, get off elevated areas and never shelter under a tree. Immediately get out and away from ponds, lakes and other bodies of water. Stay away from objects that conduct electricity, such as barbed wire or power lines.

Source: National Weather Service

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