4 out of 12 is bad
Yesterday’s lightning fatality is Baton Rouge was only one of many across the country this year. The first US lightning fatality of 2016 occurred in Larose, La. on March 13th at the T-Bois Blues outdoor music festival. Since then, 11 others have unfortunately died as a result of lightning. Three of those deaths have been in our state, one of which happened this past Sunday. Two local lightning fatalities in one week supports the fact that June, July, and August have the greatest amount of lightning activity each year. Only Florida matches our tally of four deaths this year.
The complete tally includes Louisiana and Florida with four fatalities each, two in Mississippi, and one each in Missouri and Tennessee.
Four out of 12 is bad. With 813,234 strikes annually, Louisiana is one of the lightning capitals of the country and is only bested slightly by Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia, with Florida being the clear winner. While potentially a convenient excuse, it’s almost self-destructive argument because one would think that Louisiana residents would be aware of the daily lightning threat.
Four deaths have been attributed to those who were conscious enough to at least seek shelter from the storm, but were unaware of what constitutes a “safe” shelter. Three of these examples include trees, and the other, a tent.
Looking at the others, one could assume that heedless naiveté is what came into play. Other fatalities occurred in open fields, parking lots, and construction sites.
Perhaps the problem lies in communicating this risk to those not native to the Bayou State. The first death of year was unfortunately a transplant to our beautiful state from New England. Others at risk are those from Central America who can’t speak English and are unaware of the dangers of lightning.
“While we often hear thunder in the summer, we rarely seek shelter unless it’s raining badly,” stated a local painter in Spanish, who asked to remain anonymous.
The WBRZ Weather Team constantly adjusts its message in an effort to deliver the clearest message possible to the most people across the Baton Rouge area. This includes closing the gap in language, but we need your help too. Sharing this story on social media would be a great start (shameless plug).
Other items to note are that 75% if this year’s fatalities were male, 66% did not attempt to seek shelter, and 58% occurred in June and July.
Roughly 90% actually survive lightning strikes. The man who died Thursday for example was accompanied by a coworker as they took shelter under a tree. He was severely injured however.
When it comes to summer plans, we are used to seeing afternoon thunderstorms bubble up and move through rather quickly. With that in mind, when your hear thunder during an outdoor activity, just head inside for a bit, enjoy a cool one, and let it pass. The storm doesn’t have to be directly over you. It can be several miles away. Occasionally even up to 10 miles away.
For more information on lightning safety when working outdoors, check out this publication from the National Weather Service.
If watching YouTube is more your thing, here is a lightning safety video from the National Weather Service.
Facebook: Meteorologist Robert Gauthreaux III
En Español: Meteorólogo Roberto Gauthreaux III
In American Sign Language: Meteorologist Robert Gauthreaux III - ASL