Of the 152 deaths associated with leisure activities, fishing is followed by camping (15 deaths), boating (14 deaths), soccer (12 deaths) and golf (8 deaths). The remaining 77 people were struck by lightning while participating in a number of other leisure activities like enjoying the beach, swimming, walking and running, riding recreational vehicles, and picnicking or relaxing in their yard. Between 2006 and 2012, 82 percent of people killed by lightning were male.
“When people think of lightning deaths, they usually think of golf,”
Jensenius said. “While every outdoor activity is dangerous when a
thunderstorm is in the area, outdoor activities other than golf lead to
more lightning deaths. NOAA has made a concerted effort to raise
lightning awareness in the golf community since we began the campaign in
2001, and we believe our outreach has made a huge difference since
lightning-related deaths on golf courses have decreased by 75 percent.”
Jensenius said the large number of fishing, camping and boating
lightning deaths may occur because these activities require extra time
to get to a safe place. “People often wait far too long to head to
safety when a storm is approaching, and that puts them in a dangerous
and potentially deadly situation,” he said.
Prior to the lightning safety campaign, lightning killed an average
of 73 people each year in the United States. Since the National Weather
Service launched the campaign, the average has dropped to 37. Seven
people have died from lightning strikes so far this year.
The best way for people to protect themselves against lightning
injury or death is to monitor the weather and postpone or cancel outdoor
activities when thunderstorms are in the forecast. Lightning can strike
from 10 miles away, so if people can hear thunder, they are in danger
of being struck by lightning. The only safe places to be during a
thunderstorm are in a building with four walls and a roof or in a car. A
hut, cabana, tent, or other rain shelter will not protect a person from
being struck by lightning.
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