|GEN T-STORM HAZARDS: LIGHTNING
METEOROLOGIST JEFF HABY
Lightning is one of the primary killers from thunderstorms. Lightning does not require a severe thunderstorm warning. ANY storm can
produce lightning (severe or non-severe). Lightning also strikes with little or no warning. Many lightning deaths occur when it seems
the storm is “winding down and the rain has slackened or stopped”. For these reasons (produced from any thunderstorm / little or no
warning / thinking storm is over), lightning is responsible for dozens of deaths each year. Storm deaths from flooding and tornadoes
are often heard about more partially because several deaths often occur at once and the storm event is often on people’s mind. Lightning
tends to kill one person at a time (although multiple deaths at once do occur) and can occur from ordinary storms that are not on
people’s mind as much.
People commonly go outside during a thunderstorm such as to go to the car, participate in outdoor activities or to walk to another location. The
thinking can be, “getting struck by lightning is like the odds of winning the lottery… it is not going to happen to me”. This can make people
feel more comfortable when outside during a storm given that the odds are very low of getting struck. The threat from lightning can not
be visually seen like with many of the cases with other weather events (tornado seen approaching, flooding seen in road) thus the victim
has basically no time to make a decision to avoid lightning. The decision to avoid lightning has to be made before going outside or being
stuck outside. This can be difficult to do but can mean the difference between life and death since a great percentage of lightning deaths
occur outside (although a few deaths occur inside also such as when lightning travels through plumbing or electrical wire).