We don’t tend to focus on lightning safety at this time of the year. But, as we look back on 2011, there is some positive news to report. John Jensenius and his colleagues at the National Weather Service have been actively educating the public about the hazards of lightning and resulting deaths. Over the past 40 years, there has been a dramatic decline in lighting fatalities with 2011 recording an all-time low – 26 deaths throughout the U.S. and territories. The previous low occurred in 2008 when 28 people died. In the 1970s and 1980s, we would have expected upwards of 75 deaths per year. This decrease is dramatic, and really a credit to the hard-working people at the National Weather Service!
Many other organizations are also working to spread the safety message. This is an incredible decline, and education has been at the heart of keeping us all safer. During lightning season, we’ve also made it a practice to share important steps about how to be safe. The 2011 stats are still being pulled together but let me share an interesting visual about what happened in 2008.
States colored yellow had no fatalities at all, while the states colored red or light purple saw only one or two. Colorado and Florida had the most lightning strikes, and yet only four people were hit in each state that year. It’s especially encouraging to see that large population centers such as California and New York did not have any lightning fatalities.