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Severe Weather Awareness Week: Lightning Safety

Severe Weather Awareness Week: Lightning Safety
Weather Talk

POSTED: Thursday, March 7, 2013 - 6:11am

UPDATED: Thursday, March 7, 2013 - 6:22am

This week is National Severe Weather Awareness week for Louisiana. Each day a new topic will be featured to help get you prepared for the upcoming Spring severe weather season. Earlier we took a closer look at the importance of owning a NOAA Weather Radio, now we will take a closer look at Lightning Safety.

Lightning is associated with all thunderstorms, even non-severe thunderstorms.  Lightning kills more people across the United States than tornadoes. Each year on average lightning accounts for approximately 95 deaths, second only to flooding in weather related deaths.  Lightning deaths usually occur only one or two at a time, so it does not get the national attention it deserves.

Similar to 2011, lightning produced the only direct weather related severe weather fatalities in Southeast Louisiana during 2012. Two fisherman were fatally injured when lightning struck a tree next to a small structure they had sought refuge during a thunderstorm south of Ponchatoula.  Due to the relatively high frequency of thunderstorms in Southeast Louisiana and South Mississippi, lightning is a year around weather hazard.  Lightning injuries or fatalities occur nearly each year in our area.  Lightning is one of the most intense weather phenomena associated with thunderstorms.  Lightning develops as a result of interactions between charged particles which produce an electrical field within and near the thunderstorm.  Electrical potential in lightning can be as much as 100 million volts.  Lightning strokes can occur from cloud to cloud, cloud to ground, or cloud to air.

When a thunderstorm threatens, protect yourself from lightning by getting indoors or inside a hard top automobile. Do not use electrical appliances or telephone except for emergencies.  If you are caught outdoors in a thunderstorm, do not stand under tall trees or be the tallest object in the area. If you are in a group, spread out. Get out of a pool or open water.  Stay off bicycles, motorcycles, and other open air vehicles.  Avoid wire fences, railings, and any other metal object.  Do not play outdoor sports when lightning threatens.  Put down any metal objects such as golf clubs or softball bats, and remove metal cleats.

Remember that lightning can strike several miles away from the main thunderstorm, so take precautions even when the storm is not directly above you.

You can always stay current with the weather around the area by "liking" Meteorologist Jesse Vinturella on Facebook, or follow on Twitter @JesseWeather.

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