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Lightning Safety & Wildfire Awareness Week: Lightning Overview

Colorado is a great state, if you like to be outdoors.  The fresh air, the mountains, camping, fishing, golfing, or whatever, our weather produces some really nice days.  But, there are also some not so nice days.  In the Summer, that usually means lightning and the risk of severe weather.  Lightning is one of those things that not many people think about, and that is why it is Colorado's number one weather killer.  This week is an attempt to educate people on the dangers of lightning and to increase awareness about wildfires.  The information below is courtesy of our good friends of the National Weather Service Office in Pueblo:

Lightning Overview

JUNE 20th THROUGH 26th HAS BEEN DESIGNATED AS COLORADO LIGHTNING SAFETY AND WILDFIRE AWARENESS WEEK BY GOVERNOR BILL RITTER.

IN THE UNITED STATES...THERE ARE AN ESTIMATED 25 MILLION CLOUD TO GROUND LIGHTNING FLASHES EACH YEAR...AND EACH ONE IS A POTENTIAL THREAT TO LIFE AND PROPERTY.  AN AVERAGE OF 58 PEOPLE ARE KILLED EACH YEAR BY LIGHTNING.  IN 2009...34 PEOPLE WERE KILLED BY LIGHTNING IN THE UNITED STATES.  HUNDREDS OF OTHERS WERE INJURED.  IN THE UNITED STATES DURING 2009...OF THE VICTIMS WHO WERE KILLED...

100 PERCENT WERE OUTDOORS...

82 PERCENT WERE MALE...
20 PERCENT WERE STANDING UNDERNEATH A TREE...
23 PERCENT OCCURRED ON OR NEAR THE WATER...

TWO FATALITIES OCCURRED WHILE RIDING MOTORCYCLES.

COLORADO HAD ONE LIGHTNING DEATH LAST YEAR.  THERE WERE NINE DOCUMENTED LIGHTNING STRIKE SURVIVORS IN COLORADO IN 2009.  DURING THE PAST 20 YEARS…ON AVERAGE...COLORADO HAD THREE LIGHTNING DEATHS AND 16 INJURIES.  EL PASO COUNTY…THE COLORADO SPRINGS METRO AREA…HAS THE DUBIOUS DISTINCTION OF HAVING THE MOST LIGHTNING INCIDENTS…WITH 10 FATALITIES AND 58 INJURIES SINCE 1980.  LARIMER COUNTY HAS HAD SEVEN FATALITIES AND 53 INJURIES…AND BOULDER COUNTY HAS HAD EIGHT FATALITIES AND 36 INJURIES SINCE 1980.

BECAUSE IT USUALLY AFFECTS ONE OR TWO VICTIMS AT A TIME...AND DOES NOT CAUSE THE DESTRUCTION LEFT IN THE WAKE OF TORNADOES OR HURRICANES...LIGHTNING GENERALLY RECEIVES LESS ATTENTION.

MANY PEOPLE DO NOT ACT IN A TIMELY MANNER TO PROTECT THEIR LIVES AND PROPERTY...AND THE LIVES OF OTHERS SIMPLY BECAUSE THEY DO NOT UNDERSTAND ALL THE DANGERS ASSOCIATED WITH THUNDERSTORMS AND LIGHTNING.

YOU NEED TO BECOME AWARE OF THE SITUATIONS THAT PUT YOU AT A GREATER RISK OF BEING STRUCK BY LIGHTNING...AND WHAT YOU CAN DO TO REDUCE THAT RISK. WHILE NEARLY ALL PEOPLE TAKE SOME PROTECTIVE ACTIONS WHEN RAIN...HAIL AND WIND ARE OCCURRING WITH THUNDERSTORMS...MANY LEAVE THEMSELVES VULNERABLE TO BEING STRUCK BY LIGHTNING AS THUNDERSTORMS APPROACH... DEPART...OR ARE NEARBY.  

LIGHTNING CAN STRIKE MORE THAN 10 MILES FROM THE RAIN AREA OF A THUNDERSTORM.  THAT DISTANCE IS ABOUT AS FAR AS YOU CAN HEAR THUNDER.  IF YOU CAN HEAR THUNDER...YOU COULD BE IN DANGER OF BEING STRUCK BY LIGHTNING.

INSIDE BUILDINGS...YOU MUST AVOID ACTIVITIES WHICH PUT YOUR LIFE AT RISK FROM A POSSIBLE LIGHTNING STRIKE. YOU SHOULD STAY AWAY FROM WINDOWS AND DOORS AND AVOID CONTACT WITH ANYTHING THAT CONDUCTS ELECTRICITY WELL.  YOU MAY ALSO WANT TO TAKE CERTAIN ACTIONS WELL BEFORE THE STORM THREATENS...IN ORDER TO PROTECT PROPERTY...SUCH AS UNPLUGGING ELECTRONIC EQUIPMENT.

ALSO...IN THE UNFORTUNATE EVENT THAT A PERSON IS STRUCK BY LIGHTNING...MEDICAL CARE MAY BE NEEDED IMMEDIATELY TO SAVE THE LIFE OF THE PERSON.  CARDIAC ARREST AND HEART IRREGULARITIES...BURNS...AND NERVE DAMAGE ARE COMMON WHEN PEOPLE ARE STRUCK BY LIGHTNING.  HOWEVER...WITH PROPER TREATMENT...INCLUDING CARDIOPULMONARY RESUSCITATION IF NECESSARY...MOST VICTIMS SURVIVE A LIGHTNING STRIKE...ALTHOUGH THE LONG TERM EFFECTS ON THEIR LIVES CAN BE DEVASTATING.

MOST LIGHTNING DEATHS AND INJURIES OCCUR DURING THE AFTERNOON AND EVENING...WHEN LIGHTNING IS MOST LIKELY TO OCCUR AND WHEN PEOPLE ARE MORE LIKELY TO BE OUTSIDE.

THE CHANCE THAT YOU WILL BE STRUCK BY LIGHTNING IN THE UNITED STATES IS ABOUT 1 IN 700 THOUSAND FOR EACH YEAR OF YOUR LIFE. HOWEVER...YOUR CHANCE OF BEING STRUCK WILL DEPEND ON WHETHER YOU CONSISTENTLY PRACTICE ALL THE LIGHTNING SAFETY RULES.

LIGHTNING STARTS AROUND HALF OF THE FOREST AND RANGELAND WILDFIRES ACROSS THE STATE.  COLORADO AVERAGES AROUND 2500 WILDFIRES EACH YEAR.  MANY OF THESE LIGHTNING CAUSED FIRES OCCUR WITH VERY LITTLE OR NO RAIN.  THESE STORMS OFTEN GENERATE GUSTY WINDS...WHICH CAN FAN THE FLAMES OF THE FIRE.  

NOAAS NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE PROVIDES DAILY FIRE WEATHER FORECASTS DURING THE WARM SEASON...AND SPOT FIRE WEATHER FORECASTS FOR THOSE WORKING PRESCRIBED BURNS AND WILDFIRES YEAR AROUND.

WHEN PLANNING OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES…CHECK OUT THE HAZARDOUS WEATHER OUTLOOK AND THE LATEST FORECAST…WHICH INCLUDE THUNDERSTORM AND LIGHTNING POTENTIAL.  

THE WEB SITE FOR NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE OFFICE IN PUEBLO IS...

HTTP://WWW.WEATHER.GOV/PUB

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION ABOUT LIGHTNING OR LIGHTNING SAFETY...VISIT NOAAS LIGHTNING SAFETY AWARENESS WEB SITE AT...

HTTP://WWW.LIGHTNINGSAFETY.NOAA.GOV 

OR THE LIGHTNING WEB SITE OF NOAAS NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN PUEBLO AT...

HTTP://WWW.WEATHER.GOV/PUB/LTG.PHP 

Chief Meteorologist Brian Bledsoe

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