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Lightning is the second leading cause of storm related deaths in the United States, killing more persons than tornadoes or hurricanes. Annually lightning strikes more than 400 people killing about 60. Many more are left with devastating, permanent injuries. Only floods kill more people.

Florida has the highest frequency of lightning strikes, but all of the Gulf Coast states are at significant risk. More than 70 percent of lightning fatalities occur during the months of June, July and August. According to NOAA’s National Weather Service men sustain about 85 percent of lightning deaths.

When lightning threatens the best shelter is a large fully enclosed building such as a typical house. If you can’t get to a house, a vehicle with a solid metal roof and metal sides is a reasonable second choice. Convertibles, golf carts, open framed vehicles, motorcycles and bicycles offer no lightning protection.

You can make a good extimate of lightning strikes’ distance by thunder’s travel time. The speed of sound changes depending on the temperature and humidity but can be rounded off to 1,200 feet per second. When you see a lightning flash, start counting seconds. One mile is roughly 5 seconds. If it takes 10 seconds for the thunder to be heard, the lightning struck 2 miles away. If this is the case you need to seek shelter right away.

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