Our View: Stay storm safe this summer

With all the heavy rain and storms pummeling the Bluegrass this week, it only seems fitting that this week marks Lightning Safety Awareness Week.

Each year, this awareness campaign is recognized during the last full week of June.

On Tuesday, Winchester-Clark County Parks and Recreation posted, “Today is not a great day for swimming. Please consider the weather when decided to come for a dip in the pools,” to its Facebook page with a noticed that the pools would be closed until at least 30 minutes after all thunder and lightning and passes.

We’ve all heard the age-old warnings to stay off the phone, stay out of the shower, stay away from the windows and more. But what are the real warnings professionals provide when it comes storm safety?

That is the purpose of Lightning Safety Awareness Week — to educate and raise awareness about the hazards of lightning in order to lower the number of deaths and injuries caused by lightning strikes.

According to the National Weather Service, summer is the peak season for lightning, which is one of the nation’s deadliest weather phenomena.

About 25 million cloud-to-ground lightning strikes occur in the U.S. each year.

Over the last 30 years, the U.S. have average 51 lightning fatalities per year.

Only about 10 percent of people struck by lightning are actually killed, though. The other must cope with varying degree of discomfort and disability, sometimes for the rest of their lives.

More concerning, the Ohio Valley, which includes Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio, sees some of the most frequent lightning activity in the U.S. Kentucky experienced an average of 551,572 cloud-to-ground strikes each year between 1997-2012, compared to Indiana’s 504,167 and Ohio’s 460,074.

The NWS warns lightning makes every single thunderstorm a potential killer, whether the storm produces one single bolt or 10,000 bolts. Have a lightning safety plan. Check weather forecasts daily. Cancel or postpone outdoor activities if thunderstorms develop.

According to NWS, if you hear thunder, you are within striking distance, since lightning can strike as far as 25 miles from its parent storm. So, when thunder roars, go indoors.

The safest location during a thunderstorm is inside a large enclosed structure with plumbing and electrical wiring. These include shopping centers, schools, office buildings and private residences. If lightning strikes the building, the plumbing and wiring will conduct the electricity and eventually direct it into the ground.

If no substantial buildings are available, an enclosed metal vehicle such as an automobile, van or school bus would be an alternative.

Additionally, don’t use corded phones, stay away from windows and doors, don’t touch electrical equipment or cords, avoid plumbing and refrain from touching concrete surfaces. If you are inside a vehicle, roll windows up, avoid contact with metal surfaces, the ignition or devices plugged in for charging.

While summer storms tend to dampen plans for fun, they can be very serious and dangerous. Be aware of the risks, educate your family about the necessary precautions and err on the side of caution in all situations.

To learn more lightning risks and safety measures, visit weather.gov/lightningsafetyweek.