June 20th through 24th is Lightning Safety Awareness Week in Maine. The National Weather Service Office in Caribou is providing public information on lightning and lightning safety.

Meteorologist Joe Hewitt is lead forecaster at the Caribou Weather Office. Hewitt says in the United States, there are between 20 and 25 million cloud-to-ground lightning flashes each year. Maine averages about 60,000 flashes while New Hampshire has about 30,000 flashes. Hewitt says lightning can be fascinating to watch, but it's also extremely dangerous. Each one of those 25 million flashes is a potential lightning killer.


Based on data for the last 30 years, 1986 to 2015, lightning has killed more than 1400 people in the United States, an average of 48 people per year based on documented cases.

During this same period, lightning has injured an estimated 15,000 people, some left with life-long neurological damage.

In the last 10 years, Hewitt says Maine has seen 3 deaths, making it the 10th highest in the nation per capita.  New Hampshire has not had a fatal lightning incident in the past decade.


Lightning Storms/Facebook

Lightning causes considerable damage across the nation. Each year, lightning is the cause of about 25,000 fires, including about 4400 house fires, 1800 other structural fires, and numerous forest fires. Those fires are responsible for an additional estimated 12 deaths per year. All totaled, lightning causes nearly $1 billion in damages each year.

The National Weather Service Office in Caribou is reminding northern Maine residents there is no safe place outside during a thunderstorm. "When thunder roars, go indoors!"


The best protection from lightning is a substantial building. Hewitt says if you can't get inside a substantial building, a hard-topped metal vehicle will protect you from lightning.

If your vehicle is struck, the lightning will follow the outer metal shell of the vehicle to the ground. It's important to make sure that you're fully inside the vehicle with the windows rolled up. Note that the rubber tires do not prevent the vehicle from being struck, nor do they provide any protection.


The National Weather Service Office in Caribou will provide more tips during Lightning Safety Awareness Week:

TUESDAY - Lightning's Most Deadly Activities
WEDNESDAY - Lightning Safety and Sports Activities
THURSDAY - Lightning Safety at Work
FRIDAY - Lightning Safety Around the Home

For additional information about lightning or lightning safety, visit NOAA's Lightning Safety Awareness site.