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Lightning strike fatalities are up from 2014

Do you know your odds of being struck by lightning? Most people know their chances are better than winning the lottery (1 in 175 million). According to the Frequently Asked Questions page on NOAA's Jetstream site, your odds of being struck by lightning in any given year is about 1 in 960,000, the odds of being struck in your lifetime is 1 in 12,000 and the odds you will know someone who has been struck is 1 in 1,200.

On a personal note, I have known a few people who have been struck and survived, which might explain my fascination with thunderstorms.

NOAA tracks reported deaths and injuries attributed to lightning, and NOAA/National Weather Service lightning specialist John Jensenius has the task of keeping interested meteorologists updated on reported lightning fatalities.

In his latest email Jensenius compared this year's total of 16 so far to last year's numbers, and the U.S. is ahead of last year by a month. By July 6, 2014, nine lighting deaths had been reported for that year.

Sadly, the first two deaths on this year's list came on April 9th, in Cary and Anderson Creek, North Carolina. Since then nine other states have reported fatalities.

Since 2010, the average number of lighting strike fatalities each year is 26, which is much lower than 47 over the years 1996-2000 according to Jensenius. The reduction is encouraging, but this year's uptick feels like a set-back.

So, how can you avoid being struck by lightning? Your best bet is always to shelter inside a sturdy, fully-enclosed structure and avoid corded phones, electrical appliances and plumbing during a lightning storm. Metal and electrical wiring are obviously great conductors of electricity.

If you have no choice but to be outside, do NOT stand under a tree or be the tallest thing in the area. By all means avoid water. Many of the lightning victims over the last few years have been people who were fishing, tubing, boating, and swimming. Take care and heed warnings of officials at ball parks, golf courses, and other outdoor sporting and entertainment venues.

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