12th Annual Lightning Safety Awareness Week runs June 24-30
by National Weather Service
June 13, 2012
Summer is the season in Wyoming for camping and hiking, family picnics, little league ball, and lots of outdoor activities. However, it’s also a time when thunderstorm season is at its peak and that brings the threat of deadly lightning. Although the average annual number of lightning deaths nationwide has dropped from 73 to 54, the number in Wyoming has remained too high. The National Weather Service and its lightning safety partners are urging the public, "When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors!"
The annual lightning safety campaign is helping to reduce the number of deaths caused by lightning each year. Lighting Safety Awareness Week, first launched in 2000 to educate people about the danger of lightning, has helped reduce annual lightning deaths. The number
of lightning related deaths in 2011 totaled 26, which was slightly less than one-half the 30-year average of 54 deaths.
However, the high mountain peaks and open spaces of Wyoming are among the deadliest locations nationwide when considering the Cowboy State’s population. In fact, between 2002 and 2011 the death rate per million people in Wyoming was tops in the nation and nearly two times that of runner-up Colorado. "Lightning kills far too many people in our state," said Chris Jones, warning coordination meteorologist at the Riverton NWS office. "We have many people recreating in the backcountry and in other remote locations where adequate indoor shelter is difficult to find. That’s why we strongly encourage people to get an early start when hiking, climbing, or recreating outdoors, and to find safer terrain when thunder is heard."
This year the NWS is also gearing its lightning safety message to men ages 20-50 years old. Over 80% of lightning victims are male, and this statistic has been consistent since lightning deaths were tracked beginning in 1959.
Many people still wait too long to seek shelter from lightning, which can strike up to ten miles away from a thunderstorm. NWS officials advise that if you hear thunder, you need to get inside a building or car immediately and boaters need to head to shore.
To avoid being struck by lightning, NOAA’s National Weather Service recommends that you:
• Get into a fully enclosed building or hardtop vehicle at the first rumble of thunder;
• Stay indoors for 30 minutes after the last thunder clap;
• Monitor the weather forecast when you’re planning to be outdoors;
• Have a plan for getting to safety in case a thunderstorm moves in;
• Do not use a corded phone during a thunderstorm unless it’s an emergency; cell phones are safe to use;
• Keep away from plumbing, electrical equipment and wiring during a thunderstorm.
Outdoor enthusiasts are encouraged to always check the NWS forecast online at http://www.weather.gov/riverton or by calling 1-800-211-1448 to speak directly with a meteorologist about their outdoor plans.