Man killed on Long Island is New York's first lightning death since 2016

By Kristina Pydynowski, AccuWeather senior meteorologist
August 20, 2018, 12:18:23 AM EDT

A man was struck and killed by lightning in Kings Park on Long Island, New York, on Saturday evening.

The 32-year-old man was standing under a tree next to a boardwalk when the fatal lightning strike occurred, WABC reported.

Police report that he was struck shortly before 7 p.m. EDT at Sunken Meadow State Park. He was pronounced dead at a local hospital, according to WCBS.

"This is the 16th U.S. lightning fatality of the year and the first in New York since Aug. 12, 2016, when two people were killed in a park in Poughkeepsie while sheltering from a storm under a tree," according to John Jensenius, National Weather Service lightning safety specialist and warning coordination meteorologist.

Prior to Saturday evening, Jensenius stated that there had not been a known lightning fatality in the United States for more than a month. Darrell Hoskins was struck and killed by lightning on July 14 when mowing grass in Somerville, Tennessee.

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"While the 16 deaths this year equals the total number of deaths for all of 2017, based on the past 10 years, the U.S. averages 23 lightning fatalities through Aug. 18," Jensenius said.

In addition to standing under trees, people were struck while engaging in activities such as fishing, doing yard or construction work and spending time on the beach.

As soon as thunder is heard, you are at risk of being struck by lightning.

Never seek shelter underneath a tree. The lightning charge can strike the tree, then cause fatalities up to 100 feet away.

Lightning shot

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

Lightning typically strikes the tallest point in a given area, which can be a person on an open lake, swimming pool or beach.

"The safest place to be during a storm is in a home or building with a roof and enclosed walls," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski said. "Avoid standing near windows and screen doors or on porches and beneath overhangs."

"A good option is sheltering in a hard-topped vehicle."

Bicycles, golf carts, motorcycles and convertibles are not safe places to be. The metal frame of a vehicle is what protects people from lightning strikes not the rubber tires.

"Gazebos and tents are not good choices to seek shelter from lightning," Sosnowski said.

"If hiking, move down the mountainside as quickly as possible," according to Sosnowski. "A widespread, thick forested area in a valley is a relatively safe option when hiking or camping, when a vehicle is too far away."

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