In the blink of an eye: Lightning deaths hit alarming numbers

John Willoughby
ECB Publishing, Inc.

When you see a lightning strike a character in a cartoon movie, the victim's hair gets whacky and the character gets a little shaken up. However, that's not a very realistic representation.
Lightning enters the body one way and exits out of another, heating you up to over 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit. The explosive force of a lightning strike can simply blow a person out of their shoes. Eardrums are ruptured and jewelry channels the electric current from the strike. Brain damage and comas, if the strike enters the head, can occur.
If you're lucky enough to survive a lightning strike, your nervous system will have been left damaged, leading to a paralyzing future.
On Wednesday, June 25, a boater in Umatilla was found dead on his pontoon boat. It was later confirmed that he had been struck by lightning. That marked the fifth lightning-related death in Florida this year alone. In the past decade, an average of five people per year have died in Florida following a strike by lightning. June, July and August being the most common months with the highest number of deaths, all thanks to Florida's seemingly non-stop summer thunderstorms.
According to the National Weather Service, lightning strikes the United States about 25 million times a year. Although most strikes occur in the summer, anyone can be struck at any time of the year. On a yearly average, 47 people in the United States are killed by lightning. Hundreds more are severely injured.
People can be killed by a direct strike or side flash, which occurs when lightning strikes a taller object near the victim, allowing a portion of the current to jump from the object to the victim. A ground current strike is when much of the energy travels outward from the strike in and along the ground surface. Conduction is when lightning strikes travel long distances in wires and other metal surfaces.
As you may conclude, lightning is severely deadly, hotter than the sun and can strike anywhere, at any moment, through any source of power. To avoid being struck by lightning, the National Weather Service offers safety tips on how to avoid the chance of being struck by lightning.
If you hear thunder, lightning is close enough to strike you. Immediately move to a safe shelter (a substantial building with electricity or plumbing, or an enclosed, metal-topped vehicle with windows up). Even if you don't hear thunder, stay in a safe shelter for at least 30 minutes after you hear the last sound of thunder.
Stay off corded phones, computers and other electrical equipment that put you in direct contact with electricity.
Avoid plumbing, including sinks, baths and faucets.
Stay away from windows and doors and stay off porches. Do not lie on concrete floors, and do not lean against concrete walls.
If you are caught outside with no safe shelter anywhere, immediately get off any elevated areas, such as hills, mountain ridges or peaks. Never lie flat on the ground and never shelter under an isolated tree, cliff or rocky overhang. Immediately get out and away from ponds, lakes and other bodies of water, and stay away from objects that conduct electricity (barbed wire fences, power lines, windmills, etc.) Get as low to the ground as you can. Possibly, a ditch.
For more info, log onto weather.gov for more information about lightning strikes and how to stay safe from being struck.