Lightning Strikes: Myth vs. Fact
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News and images of several lightning strikes have been buzzing across the Web during the past couple of weeks. But despite the recent high-profile cases, lightning-related deaths are actually at an all-time low.
The latest incident happened Sunday in Venice Beach, California, when a bolt of lightning struck near the water, killing one person and injuring at least eight others. Last week, lightning struck and caused a fire that destroyed a Massachusetts home (no one was injured).
The recent rise in strikes is not random; we are at the peak of lightning season. “July is the month where [we] not only get the most lightning, but also more people are outside,” John Jensenius, meteorologist and lightning safety specialist for the National Weather Service, told Yahoo Health. “Because of those two factors, it’s the month where we see the most fatalities.”
There have been eight lightning-related deaths in July, but the fatality rate, said Jensenius, has steadily declined during the past 30 years. Last year, there were only 23 deaths in the United States, which is an all-time low. “I think during the past 10 or 15 years, making people more aware of the dangers has definitely played a role in lowering the fatality rate,” said Jensenius.
"When thunder roars, head indoors" is an oft-repeated tip by Jensenius and his colleagues. "Anytime you’re outside, you’re at risk," he said. And leisure activities, such as fishing, swimming, or playing outdoor sports, account for 62 percent of lightning deaths annually. (Of all leisure activities, fishing tops the list.) To keep the awareness train rolling, we asked Jensenius and the National Weather Service to help us debunk some of the most popular lightning myths.
Myth: Lightning never strikes the same place twice.
Fact: This one has been around so long it’s been turned into a popular idiom. Too bad it’s simply not true. Lightning can strike multiple times in the same place, especially if that place is really tall and pointy. (Case in point: The Empire State Building is hit nearly 100 times a year.)