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Lightning Can Be Deadly Whether You're Outdoors or Indoors

Each year across the country, deaths are reported because of lightning. As many as 11 people have already died this year in the United States, as a result of lightning. This week is Missouri Summer Safety and Lightning Awareness week, and the goal is keeping Missourians safe during the unpredictable weather in the summer months. KSMU’s Theresa Bettmann spoke with the National Weather service and has this report.

For many people summer means spending time enjoying the great outdoors. However, thunderstorms can crop up unexpectedly, and bring along the danger of being struck by lightning. Steve Runnels is spokesperson with the National Weather Service of Springfield. He says that many people don’t take the potential hazard seriously if they think the storm is far enough away.

"One of the misconceptions is watching lightning strikes off in a distance and thinking that there is plenty of time to come indoors. Then all of a sudden a bolt comes out of a different part of the thunderstorm and occasionally that suprises people. So as soon as you hear thunder, you need to move indoors." Runnels said.

Runnels says that when a thunderstorm moves in the first thing to do is get inside a structure with four walls like a house, barn or other similar structure. He cautions that any open structure without walls, like a gazebo, will not provide protection. Runnels says that lightning will seek out the tallest available structure in a given area. He says if no appropriate shelter is available, the next best thing is to get as close to the ground as possible. He cautions however that people are not safe just because they are inside.

"If you do make it indoors, there are still dangers. Absolutely. We do want to let people know that lightning will enter your house on power lines and water lines. So if you are connected to anything that connects to the outside, you are potentially at risk." Runnels said.

Runnels says that any indoor activity which includes a plugged-in power source, or use of water should be avoided during a storm. This means you should avoid taking showers and running water in tubs or sinks. Also, stay away from electronic equipment, and don’t use corded telephones. He says that cordless telephones will not conduct electricity during a storm, making them a safe alternative. Runnels further adds that people should remember one simple phrase to keep them safe this summer, “when thunder roars, go indoors”. You can find links to more information below.

For KSMU News, I’m Theresa Bettmann.

Click here for the National Weather Service

Click here for the Springfield-Greene County Health Department

Click here for Springfield-Greene Couty Office of Emergency Management