Lightning in Colorado is most common in the summer months, but can be a hazard throughout the year.
Given that a half million lightning flashes strike the ground in Colorado each year, and that more people are killed and injured by lightning than any other weather hazard, Governor John Hickenlooper declared last week as Colorado Lightning Safety Awareness Week. But, people should be cautious and aware of lightning throughout the entire season.
Lightning in Colorado is most common in the summer months, but can be a hazard throughout the year. And although nearly all lightning victims are struck outdoors, lightning can pose a threat to those indoors as well.
All thunderstorms produce potentially deadly and destructive lightning. Knowing lightning is in the forecast and being prepared to react to the first sound of thunder are the initial key safety steps.
If you are outdoors and see darkening skies or hear thunder, immediately seek safe shelter. A safe shelter is a well-constructed building, such as a home, store, church or school. An enclosed automobile is also an excellent safe shelter. Do not seek shelter in “open” buildings, such as a picnic shelters, baseball dugouts, patios, porches, tents, barns or garages. These structures are not safe during lightning activity.
Don’t wait for rain to start falling to seek safe shelter — by then it could be too late. Lightning causalities frequently occur either before the rain begins or soon after the rain ends. Wait at least 30 minutes after the last rumble of thunder before returning outside.
Once indoors during a thunderstorm, try not to use corded appliances and electronics, such as computers and phones, as well as plumbing. Electrical wiring and pipes can provide a path for lightning to enter an enclosed structure.
If you are caught outside during a thunderstorm and there is no safe shelter nearby, there is little you can do to substantially reduce your risk from being struck by lightning. A few things you can do to slightly reduce your risk include:
- Do not seek shelter under trees - Stay away from tall isolated objects. - Avoid open fields
Last year in the United States, lightning was reported to have killed 27 people. On average, over the past 10 years, lightning was responsible for 31 fatalities annually. Additionally, scores of people are injured by lightning. Lightning survivors are often left with debilitating health effects, such as permanent nerve damage or brain injury. It is important to realize there are no guaranteed safe shelters — rather only ways to reduce your chances of becoming a victim.