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Weather service stresses lightning safety

Jun 17, 2013 From staff reports

The warnings target men specifically because males comprise 80 percent of lightning victims.

Summer draws thousands of outdoor enthusiasts to the wide open spaces and mountains of Wyoming. Unfortunately, summer also signals the peak of the thunderstorm season across the state.

Whether camping, hiking, heading to the ball park, or riding horses, the National Weather Service is encouraging people to use lightning safety week, June 23 to June 29, to become better aware of lightning dangers and safety precautions.

Lightning remains the No. 1 weather-related killer in Wyoming. Both historical and 10-year averages show Wyoming leads the nation in lightning deaths per million people.

"We cannot stress enough the need for people to go indoors when thunder roars," said Chris Jones, warning coordination meteorologist at the Riverton NWS office. "The challenge in Wyoming is that adequate indoor shelter is difficult to find when recreating in the backcountry. Oftentimes the best thing is to avoid being put in a dangerous situation in the first place."

Thunderstorm activity is most common in the afternoon hours, usually starting first over the mountains. The NWS strongly encourages people to get an early start when hiking, climbing or recreating outdoors, and to find safer terrain when thunder is heard.

"When dark clouds build and begin moving toward you, start heading for shelter or for shore. Don't try to squeeze out an extra half-hour above tree line or on the lake," Jones added.

Many people still wait too long to seek shelter from lightning, which can strike up to 10 miles away from a thunderstorm. The NWS advises that if a person can hear thunder, he or she needs to get inside a building or car immediately.

Lightning safety messages target men specifically because males comprise 80 percent of lightning victims.

To avoid being struck by lightning, NOAA's National Weather Service recommends that people:

- Get into a fully enclosed building or hardtop vehicle at the first rumble of thunder;

- Stay indoors for 30 minutes after the last thunder clap;

- Monitor the weather forecast;

- Have a plan for getting to safety in case a thunderstorm moves in;

- Do not use a corded phone during a thunderstorm unless it's an emergency; cell phones are safe to use;

- Keep away from plumbing, electrical equipment and wiring during a thunderstorm.

Jones said that anyone, especially those planning extended outdoor activities, can always check the latest NWS forecast online at or call 1-800-211-1448 to speak directly with a meteorologist about their outdoor plans.

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