Extension News

Learn to be Safe When Lightning Strikes

lightning flashes across night sky


AMES, Iowa--See the lightning? Hear the thunder? Then you’re at risk of a lightning strike. The thunderstorms of July have rolled in and with them, the danger of lightning fires, injuries and fatalities.

One place people can turn for lightning safety information is Iowa State University Extension, which has an office in every Iowa  county and has county staff who can help answer questions and track down information.

Lightning is a dangerous force to be respected.  Because lightning affects only one or a few people at a time and does not cause widespread destruction, many people underestimate the severe risks it poses, according to the American Red Cross.

Lightning kills more people each year on average than hurricanes and tornadoes combined, according to the American Meteorological Society. Nearly 100 lightning-related deaths and 500 injuries occur each year in the United States, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Their statistics show that most lightning injuries and fatalities occur when people are caught outdoors in the summer months during the afternoon and evening.

NOAA statistics also show that most casualties occur in open areas, including sports fields. The next largest number of casualties occurs when people go under trees to keep dry. Next come water-related activities, followed by golfing in the open and sitting in the open-exposed cockpits of farm and construction vehicles. Corded telephones are the leading cause of indoor lightning casualties.

More helpful information can be found at these ISU Extension links.

Severe weather tips for farmers
Canoeing safety in severe weather 

Inclement weather protocol for high school athletics

Lightning protection measures when wiring rural facilities

Also see
FEMA: Teaching kids about lightning safety 

NOAA: Avoiding the risks of deadly lightning strikes 

NOAA: Determine your proximity to the lightning strike zone

Contacts :
Carol Ouverson, Extension Communication and Marketing, (515) 294-9640, couverso@iastate.edu