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What are the chances of being struck by lightning?

  • LIGHTNING STRIKE RISK ASSESSMENT - CONTENTS: What is the chance of being struck by lightning? What happens when someone is struck by lightning? Is it always fatal? Lasting neurological effects of being hit by lightning.
    • Lightning strike risk assessment
    • Citation of the basic risks of lightning strikes
    • What to do to reduce the chance of injury by lightning strikes
    • NOAA lightning strike safety recommendations
  • POST a QUESTION or READ FAQs about the probability of being struck by lightning
  • REFERENCES
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What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

This article summarizes the basic risks of lighting strikes or being struck by lightning and cites opinions on what to do to reduce the chances of personal injury by lightning during a storm. This article series describes common lightning protection systems, certification, installation, and lightning protection system inspection. We provide information about lightning strikes, lightning hazards, related equipment, sources of lightning protection system installers, and lightning strike risk assessment



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Lightning Strike Risk Assessment

Lightning strikes are the most dangerous, and most often observed weather hazard people see. (Floods kill more people in the U.S. each year than lightning.)

Since about 1977, about 73 people a year have died in the U.S. due to lightning strikes. It may surprise some readers however to learn that while you're not so likely to die (10% of people hit by lightning die), you are likely to have long term neurological damage including brain functions such as short term memory loss and handling of new incoming information. Other long term complaints include headaches, dizziness, numbness, pain, fatigue, irritability, and similar behavior changes.

"The magnitude of the cloud-to-ground lightning hazard is understood better today than had been the case due in large part to data collected by the U.S. National Lightning Detection Network TM (NLDN) described by Holle and Lopez (1994) and Cummins et al. (1998). From 1992 to 1995, the NLDN identified an average of 21,746,000 cloud-to-ground flashes per year (Orville and Silver 1997).

Lightning occurs in the U.S. every day in summer, and nearly every day during the rest of the year. At any time there are about 1800 active lightning storms on earth, and in the U.S. where lightning strikes are monitored, about 25,000,000 lightning groundstrokes are recorded annually. Since lightning strikes the ground in such large numbers and is so widespread, it is not possible to warn each person for every flash.

For this reason, lightning can be considered the most dangerous weather hazard that many people encounter each year. Lightning-specific warnings have proven effective in some unique applications, such as at the Kennedy Space Center and during major golf tournaments."

"Although the scientific understanding of lightning has advanced significantly in the last few decades (Krider 1996), a consistent match between basic science and applications to safety had not been made.

For example, NOAA (1992) said to squat on the balls of your feet and minimize contact with the ground, while NOAA (1985) recommended dropping to the knees during the lightning threat, and NOAA (1970) suggested dropping to the ground.

Concerning when to reach a safe location, NOAA (1992) recommended going to a safe location at the first sound of thunder, NOAA (1985) was not specific about when to go to a safe place, and NOAA (1970) made no mention of this decision process.

Similar variations can be found in these and many other publications regarding additional issues such as medical and first aid approaches to lightning victims." -- Quotation - see Holle/Lopez.

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