LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Monday, March 1, 2022: The National Weather Service, in cooperation with the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management, has proclaimed the week of February 27th through March 5th as Severe Weather Awareness Week in Arkansas. A different topic will be discussed each day, and Tuesday’s topic is lightning.

Lightning is a hazard in all thunderstorms. Whether a storm is severe or not, lightning can always be deadly. In the last 30 years, lightning was the third deadliest thunderstorm hazard behind flash floods and tornadoes. On average there are 40 to 50 fatalities a year due to lightning across the country. Most lightning deaths occur in the summer (June, July and August) when people are outdoors. Eight out of ten victims of lightning are male. If a person is struck by lightning, that person’s body will not retain any electrical charge. Thus, the injured person can and should be cared for immediately.

Lightning can strike as much as 10 miles away from a thunderstorm cloud. Given this, it is no surprise that most lightning deaths occur as a thunderstorm is approaching or moving away, and not necessarily overhead. Lightning tends to strike tall objects, but not always. The air is a poor conductor of electricity, so lightning will often go the shortest distance to make a connection from cloud to ground.

Statistics show that Arkansas is a top 10 state as far as lightning activity in the last ten years. Arkansas experiences more than 800,000 cloud-to-ground lightning flashes per year.

…Some Lightning Safety Rules…
1: If you can hear thunder, you are in danger from lightning. When thunder roars, go indoors. Do not take shelter in small sheds, pavilions, or tents, or under trees. The safest place is a fully-enclosed building that is grounded.

2: A hard-top car is also a safe location. Keep the windows rolled up and do not touch metal inside the vehicle. Motorcycles, scooters, bicycles, and farm tractors are not safe places.

3: Stay away from higher elevations spots such as hilltops, and avoid nearby poles and towers.

4: Move away from chain-link fences and other metal fences such as those around ballparks and playgrounds. Get off the golf course.

5: If you are in the water, get out immediately. If you are in a boat, head toward safe harbor.

6: Organizers of events/activities are advised to designate a weather watcher. Assign an official who will stop the events/activities when lightning becomes imminent. Have specific evacuation instructions in place so people know where to go.

7: Telephone lines and metal pipes can conduct electricity, so do not use electrical appliances or corded phones during thunderstorms. Computers and other expensive electronic equipment may be damaged by power surges. You may consider unplugging these items. Stay out of the bathtub or shower.