Experts explain why summer is the peak for lightning fatalities

By Chaffin Mitchell, AccuWeather staff writer

A lightning strike can result in a cardiac arrest and death, and the most lightning strikes occur during warm summer months when people are outside enjoying the weather.

According to the NWS Storm Data, over the last 30 years (1988-2017), the United States has averaged 45 reported lightning fatalities per year. Only about 10 percent of people who are struck by lightning are killed, leaving 90 percent with various degrees of disability.

Kansas Daily LIfe

Lightning dwarfs city lights as a distant thunder storm passes by Dodge City, Kan. Friday, June 29, 2018. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Over the last 10 years (2007-2017), the U.S. has averaged 28 lightning fatalities annually.

"The month of July is the peak month for lightning fatalities in the U.S. Based on the past 10 years, the U.S. averages about 10 fatalities for the month, or about one fatality every three days," Lightning Safety Specialist for the National Weather Service (NWS), John Jensenius said.

Jensenius reported that July is also the peak month for lightning strikes across the U.S.

"This is likely a combination between the number of lightning strikes during the summer months, along with the amount of people outdoors during the summer puts more people in danger," AccuWeather Meterologist Evan Duffey said.

Fatal lightning incidents by month

"It is a month when many people are outside enjoying a variety of leisure activities," Jensenius said.

According to Jensenius, about 20 percent of lightning fatalities are related to activities around the home.

Lightning fatality statistics show that people take more chances when they’re closer to home, whether it’s walking to or from a car, doing yard work or simply waiting too long to head inside.

Also, if you're close to your home, that doesn't mean you're any less likely to avoid being struck. The sound of thunder should serve as an immediate reminder to head inside.

"Those outdoor activities put people at risk of being struck any time thunderstorms are in the area. People often wait far too long to get to a safe place when thunderstorms are approaching," Jensenius said.

According to Duffey, of those leisure activities, water-related leisure activities account for more than any other activity. It is especially important when out on the water or on the beach to seek shelter during thunderstorms.

"If you can hear thunder, even what seems to be a distant rumble, you are at risk of being struck and need to get inside a substantial building or a hard-topped vehicle immediately," Jensenius said.

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Jensenius recommends waiting 30 minutes after the last thunder before returning outside.

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