Fox News Weather Center

Lightning Danger: What You Need to Know to Stay Safe

Spring is in full swing across the United States which means that thunderstorms are becoming more widespread and occurring on a more regular basis.

While only a small number of storms become strong enough to produce damaging winds, large hail and tornadoes, every thunderstorm produces lightning.

Lightning is one of natures deadliest phenomenon, claiming roughly 55 to 60 lives every year across the United States and injuring hundreds more.

Many lightning strikes are harmless and have very little effect on people and the environment. However, people should keep in mind that it only takes one to endanger lives and cause damage to property.

Lightning claimed its first victim of 2015 last week on Thursday night in Cary, North Carolina, when lightning from a nearby thunderstorm struck a 28-year-old man in a parking lot.

Another man was struck on Wednesday in Dayton, Ohio, sending the 23-year-old man to the hospital with life-threatening injuries.

Fortunately, he was later reported to be in stable condition.

When a thunderstorm is approaching, it is important to seek shelter as soon as possible to stay safe.

According to Senior Meteorologist Kristina Pydynowski, "a sturdy and enclosed building or a car is the safest place to be during a thunderstorm."

Keep in mind though that if you are in a car during a thunderstorm, you should avoid touching metallic areas that can conduct electricity.

Below is a list of safety tips to follow to stay protected from lightning:


1. When you hear thunder or see lightning, seek shelter.

2. Never seek shelter underneath a tree.

3. Stay away from windows.

4. Do not bath or shower.

5. Avoid metal pipes.

Just because a thunderstorm is far away does not mean that you are safe from being struck.

"A thunderstorm may not be directly overhead, but you could still get hit by lightning. A bolt of lightning can strike people and buildings 10 miles away from where it is raining," said Pydynowski.

"In extremely rare cases, lightning has been detected almost 50 miles from the parent thunderstorm."

Lightning that strikes this far away from a thunderstorm is sometimes refereed to as a 'bolt from the blue.'

With temperatures reaching as high as 50,000 degrees F, lightning strikes can easily spark fires if they hit the right target.

Dry thunderstorms bring the greatest danger at sparking a fire due to the lack of rainfall.

Storms of these nature typically occur across the West where the air near the ground is so dry that all of the rain that falls from the storm evaporates before reaching the ground.

This means that if a lightning bolt hits a target and sparks a fire, there is no rain to quickly snuff it out.

The frequency of thunderstorms will continue to climb over the next few weeks, peaking during the summer months.

The increase in thunderstorm activity across the nation combined with an increase in outdoor activities leads to a spike in lightning incidences during the summer months.

AccuWeather MinuteCast® is one tool to use to know when a thunderstorm will affect your exact location.