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K-State Today

March 23, 2011

Weather safety: Lightning

By Steven Galitzer

Summer is the peak season for one of the nation's deadliest weather phenomena -- lightning. But don't be fooled, lightning strikes all year round. In the United States, about 58 people are killed each year by lightning.

Hundreds of people are permanently injured each year. People struck by lightning suffer from a variety of long-term, debilitating symptoms including memory loss, attention deficits, sleep disorders, chronic pain, numbness, dizziness, stiffness in joints, irritability, fatigue, weakness, muscle spasms, depression and more.

 Lightning -- What you need to know:

• No place outside is safe when thunderstorms are in the area

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

• When you hear thunder, immediately move to safe shelter.

• Safe shelter is a substantial building or inside an enclosed, metal-topped vehicle.

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

Indoor Lightning Safety Tips:

• Stay off corded phones, computers and other electrical equipment that put you in direct contact with electricity.

• Avoid plumbing, including sinks, baths and faucets.

• Stay away from windows and doors, and stay off porches.

• Do not lie on concrete floors, and do not lean against concrete walls.

Last resort outdoor risk reduction tips -- No place outside is safe when lightning is in the area, but if you are caught outside with no safe shelter anywhere nearby the following actions may reduce your risk:

• Immediately get off elevated areas such as hills, mountain ridges or peaks.

• Never lie flat on the ground.

• Never use a tree for shelter.

• Never use a cliff or rocky overhang for shelter.

• Immediately get out and away from ponds, lakes and other bodies of water.

• Stay away from objects that conduct electricity (barbed wire fences, power lines, windmills, etc.).

• Under no circumstances should any of the above actions be taken if a building or an all-metal vehicle is nearby.

If someone is struck:

• Victims do not carry an electrical charge and may need immediate medical attention.

• Monitor the victim and begin CPR or use an AED, if necessary.

• Call 911 for help.

 Remember: When thunder roars, go indoors!