ATLANTA — Since 2000, lightning has been one of the most-common weather-related killers in Georgia, second only to tornadoes.
During Lightning Safety Awareness Week, which runs through Saturday, Georgia Emergency Management Agency/Homeland Security encourages all Georgia residents to prepare for the possibility of severe lightning storms and to understand its associated risks.
“National Weather Service research shows that two-thirds of recent lightning-related deaths occur among people participating in outdoor activities,” said Jim Butterworth, GEMA/HS director. “The summer months, when people are outdoors most often, are also when lightning storms are most prevalent. Knowing what to do before, during and after a storm strikes can be the difference between life and death.”
Every year in the United States, it is estimated that lightning strikes about 25 million times. Although most lightning occurs in the summer, people can be struck at any time of year. On average, lightning kills 49 people across the country each year, and hundreds more are severely injured. In Georgia, lightning kills one to two people and injures approximately 12 people per year on average.
GEMA/HS’s Ready Georgia campaign recommends the following tips to prepare for lightning storms.
Before lightning strikes
• Look for darkening skies, flashes of light or increasing wind. Listen for the sound of thunder.
• If you can hear thunder, you are close enough to the storm to be struck by lightning. Go to safe shelter immediately.
• Know the 30/30 rule: go indoors if, after seeing lightning, you cannot count to 30 before hearing thunder. Stay indoors for 30 minutes after hearing the last clap of thunder.
• Monitor NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio or television for the latest weather forecasts
• Download the free Ready Georgia mobile app to receive severe weather alerts.
When a storm approaches
• Find shelter in a building or car. Keep car windows closed and avoid convertibles.
• If shelter is not available, go to the lowest area nearby and make yourself the smallest target possible by squatting. Do not lie flat on the ground.
• If on open water, get to land and shelter immediately.
• Unplug appliances. Avoid using the telephone or any electrical appliances. (Leaving electric lights on, however, does not increase the chances of your home being struck by lightning.)
• Avoid taking a bath or shower, or running water.
• Turn off the air conditioner. Power surges from lightning can overload the compressor.
• Draw blinds and shades over windows. If windows break due to objects blown by the wind, the shades will help prevent glass from shattering into your home.
Things to avoid
• A tall, isolated tree in an open area.
• Hilltops, open fields, the beach, a pool, a boat on the water, isolated sheds or other small structures in open areas.
• Anything metal — tractors, farm equipment, motorcycles, golf carts, golf clubs, and bicycles.
After the storm passes
• Stay away from storm-damaged areas.
• Listen to the radio or television for information and instructions.
For more information on how to prepare for lightning storms and other severe weather, go to www.ready.ga.gov or download Ready Georgia’s free mobile app.
To learn about specific risks in one’s area, contact the local emergency management agency.