Southern California beaches may be the perfect place to cool off during the summer, but it’s also one of the deadliest spots to be caught during a lightning storm. In July 2014, lightning struck and killed one person as well as injuring 13 more people at Venice Beach, just south of Santa Monica. Though it may sound like an unusual accident, this type of tragedy is not as rare as people may think. Southern California is bracing for the monsoon weather patterns which spring up in the summer and increase the likelihood of thunderstorms.
Read more about Venice Beach incident: http://www.cnn.com/2014/07/27/us/lightning-strike-venice-beach/index.html
It’s dangerous to be outside at all during a lightning storm, but the beach is especially dangerous! If you are on the beach, chances are you’re the tallest thing in the immediate area, which makes you more vulnerable to being struck directly by lightning. People don’t react quickly enough. They don’t like to be inconvenienced by thunderstorms, so people tend to wait outside too long before seeking safety.
Another problem concerning thunderstorms is the constant crash of waves that make it hard for people to hear approaching storms. We all know how hard it can be to hear with the wind blowing as well.
These factors may explain why the beach is the second deadliest place to be during a lightning storm! Between 2006 and 2015, a total of 313 people died from lightning strikes in the United States, according to an analysis according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
During that time, 18 people (6 percent) died from lightning strikes while at the beach. Only fishing was more dangerous, accounting for 33 deaths (11 percent) during that period.
Some of the other deadly lightning-related activities included camping (5 percent of all lightning deaths), farming or ranching (5 percent), boating (4 percent), riding a bike, using a motorcycle or all-terrain vehicle (4 percent), and playing soccer (4 percent).
Golfing accounted for just 3 percent of lightning fatalities, partly because of increased awareness that people should head inside as soon as they see lightning, or simply stay inside when lightning is in the forecast.
It is advised that as soon as people hear thunder, they should head indoors or to a hard-topped vehicle. That’s not because the rubber tires on the vehicle offer protection, as many people believe. Rather, it’s because if lightning strikes a vehicle, the electrical charge will run through the vehicle’s outer, metal shell, leaving any occupants of the vehicle relatively unscathed. The same can be said of commercial airliners that fly through rough weather.
IF YOU SEE OR HEAR AN APPROACHING THUNDERSTORM:
If you are out on the beach when a thunderstorm approaches:
– Get off the beach if you can hear thunder or see lightning, even if it is in the distance.
– Lightning can strike more than 25 miles from the thunderstorm in which it originates.
– Do not take shelter under a tree.
– Take shelter in a building (even a bathroom if necessary).
– Take shelter in your car.
– Do not go into the water or touch the water. Lightning travels easily through salt water and can kill multiple people near the strike.
– Do not go back out onto the beach until at least 1/2 hour after the last thunder is heard. The most deaths from lightning occur either 1/2 hour before the storm arrives or 1/2 hour after it passes.
– If you are caught in the open and cannot seek shelter, squat down on the ground with only your feet touching the ground. Stay away from fences, electric poles, metal objects, trees. Get as low as possible.