June 26, 2013 —
WASHINGTON, DC — The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has discovered that 64% of lightning deaths since 2006 occurred while people were participating in leisure activities, with fishing topping the list at 26 deaths. John Jensenius, a lightning safety specialist with the NOAA’s National Weather Service, conducted the study by examining demographic information for 238 deaths attributed to lightning over the last seven years.
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% 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%.”
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.