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Fishing for trouble

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Posted: Jun 24, 2014 10:37 AM by Meteorologist Josh Eachus
Updated: Jun 24, 2014 10:37 AM
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Topics: lightning, safety, awareness, storms

Louisiana is a "Sportsman's Paradise" and a place where people flock to the outdoors for all sorts of activities. With great summer fun in our hot and humid state, there exists a blend that can potentially turn deadly.

Louisiana is bested by only Florida, Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi for the most days each year rumbled by a thunderstorm. On average, there is a thunderstorm somewhere in the Baton Rouge area about 60 days per year.

Despite the combination of outdoor allure for residents and Louisiana's geographical propensity for lightning strikes, Louisiana is not in the top ten states for lightning fatalities from 2004-2013. In that time, 10 people were killed by lightning ranking the state 13th. However, since these statistics began in 1959, Louisiana ranks 6th for lightning deaths with 141 in the 54 year span. Florida tops the all-time and recent chart with 472 and 46 deaths respectively.

National Weather Service lightning safety specialist, John Jensenius, Jr. conducted a deeper data analysis to further determine who is most at risk of being struck by lightning.

During an 8 year period from 2006-2013 two-thirds of those killed were participating in some sort of outdoor activity.

Out of 261 cases over the 2006-2013 stretch, 81% of the victims were male. People between the ages of 10-60 accounted for more than 75% of deaths.

June, July and August have the greatest amount of lightning activity each year and also are the months in which people are spending the most time outdoors. 70% of the 261 deaths occurred during this three month span with May and September also recording over 20 fatalities each. Within the months, the weekends are the times in which people are most likely to be outdoors. While all days of the week are fairly close in number of lightning related deaths, there is a slight peak for weekend days with over 45 deaths a piece.

Jensenius' study also identified what lightning strike victims were doing at the time of being struck. Leisure activities accounted for 167 of the 261 deaths from 2006-2013. Activities associated with a daily routine such as chores or travelling to work were responsible for 17% of deaths and 15% were tied directly to work.

A common belief is that golfers are most prone to lightning strikes. Jensenius' study found quite the contrary. For specific activities, golf was actually 9th over the 8 year period, responsible for 8 of the 261 deaths. By and away the single activity MOST often tied to fatal strikes from 2006-2013 was fishing with 30 (11%) of the lightning deaths. Boating, camping and farming each had half as many fatalities.

Jensenius also discussed likely reasons for these statistics which make apparent measures you can take to avoid becoming a statistic.

Many people are unwilling to adjust their schedules. Unfortunately, while activities are often cancelled due to the threat of daylong rain-the chance for a much more deadly single thunderstorm tends not to alter plans. IF THERE IS NO REASONABLY CLOSE, SAFE SHELTER AVAILABLE FOR AN OUTDOOR ACTIVITY, CANCEL YOUR PLANS IF THUNDERSTORMS ARE FORECAST.

Some have proper safety measures in place but are unaware of approaching storms. This may be due to the background noise of a boat or the obstructed view created by trees. IF STORMS ARE IN THE FORECAST, BE VIGILANT OF CHANGING WEATHER AND HAVE A MEANS OF CHECKING THE FORECAST ON A NOAA WEATHER RADIO OR SMARTPHONE.

Certain outdoor activities put one in greater danger to a direct lightning strike such as being in an open area boating, fishing or playing soccer. LEAVE OPEN LOCATIONS IF A THUNDERSTORM IS APPROACHING.

Many of the deaths in the study occurred when people were actually trying to reach safety. The problem is that many began scrambling for safety after it was too late or were waiting to see if conditions would improve. GET TO SAFETY AT THE FIRST SIGN OF A DEVELOPING STORM.

June 22-28 is lightning safety awareness week. The WBRZ Weather Team will have much more about lightning and safety on-air, on social media and right here on wbrz.com through the week.

For Jensenius' complete study, click here.

You can get forecasts from Meteorologist Josh Eachus weekdays on 2une-In from 5-7am and News 2 at Noon from 12-1pm. Additionally, you can get the fastest and latest forecasts and weather news by checking in with wbrz.com/weather, liking Josh on Facebook and following him on Twitter.

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