by Margo Waldrop

Beautiful and deadly, lightning is one of nature’s most fascinating wonders. These majestic light shows light up the sky with their intricacy but also carry lethal charges that can wipe out scores of people in one strike. Such high-voltage strikes claim between 55 to 60 lives per year, while also injuring hundreds.

Most strikes occur in open areas such as golf courses, ball parks and fields. Your best bet for safety is to get indoors as quickly as possible. NEVER hide beneath a tree or near metal objects, as these can be dangerous electrical magnets. And don’t be deceived by the distance of a thunderstorm. A storm doesn’t have to be close to present a threat. A bolt of lightning can strike people up to 10 miles away from its storm source, and in rare cases, has been known to strike up to 50 miles away.

If you are in your car during an electrical storm, stay put, the rubber tires can ground a charge and keep you from being injured. However, you should avoid touching anything metal within the car until the storm passes.

If you are in doors, do not bath or shower and avoid anything inherently metal, such as pipes.  It is also a good idea to keep a fire extinguisher handy in case of a lightning strike, since dry conditions can prompt fires.

While thunderstorms also bring hail, rain and tornados, keep in mind that lightning is an ever present danger. Educate your family on storm safety and include lightening protection tips in your severe weather plans.