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From the Desk of Legislator Dave Mejias: July 10, 2009

NOAA Advises: When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors!

Two weeks ago marked the first official week of the summer. It also marked the beginning of Lightning Safety Week, a week of education and awareness designated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Summer is the deadliest season for lightning strikes due to the increase in frequency of thunderstorms and likelihood of people being outdoors. So far, 16 people across the United States have been killed this year by lightning strikes, 11 of them in the month of June alone. The NOAA is advising people to immediately head indoors when they hear thunder or witness lightning. All 16 people killed this year and all 28 killed in 2008 were outdoors when they were struck by lightning. According to the National Weather Service more than 400 people per year are struck by lightning and on average, lightning kills more people than hurricanes and tornadoes combined. Only floods kill more.

Here are some interesting facts about lightning:

In the United States, there are an estimated 25 million lightning flashes each year.

During the past 30 years lightning has killed an average of 58 people per year.

The State of Florida receives more cloud-to-ground lightning than any other state in the country.

Each bolt of lightning can reach over 5 miles in length.

A bolt of lightning can hit temperatures of over 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

Lightning bolts contain 100 million electrical volts.

Although no deaths have occurred in the northeast this year it is important for residents to be aware of the danger thunderstorms present and how to best protect loved ones during a lightning storm.

Avoid taking shelter under the nearest tree; nearly one-third of the people killed in 2008 were under one.

Wearing rubber shoes cannot protect you from lightning.

Stay off corded telephones, computers and other electrical equipment that put you in direct contact with electricity.

Buy surge protectors for important equipment and fault protectors for circuits near water or outdoors.

Wait 30 minutes after the last clap of thunder before returning outside after a lightning storm.

If a loved one is struck by lightning the first thing to know is that the victim does not carry an electrical charge so it is safe to touch them. Cardiac arrest is the immediate cause of death for those that do die. Some deaths can be prevented if the victim receives medical attention immediately. Call 9-1-1 and perform CPR if the person is unresponsive and not breathing. Use an automatic External Defibrillator (AED) if one is available. Following these simple steps can ensure a safe, happy and healthy summer for you and your family.