Missouri Ranks Sixth in Nation for Deadly Lightning Strikes

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- The National Weather Service has declared this week "Lightning Awareness Week" to remind people of the dangers -- especially this time of year when a storm can pop up at any time.

Afternoon storms can be pretty common in the summertime. Mother Nature is unpredictable and our lives can change weather-wise within seconds.

Lightning Dangers and Safety Stressed This Week

On beautiful days with the birds chirping, people like to head to the golf course, go fishing or just play any kind of outdoor sport.

"You think about lightning when it's stormy," says Golfer Bob Miller. "But on a day like today, no one thinks about it at all."

You never know when lightning can strike.

"You really have to be on guard when it comes to lightning here in the Ozarks," says National Weather Service Meteorologist Steve Runnels.

Summertime in the Show-Me State means the chance for afternoon storms and holding a golf club or fishing pole during those storms can often mean trouble.

"If you are in contact with anything that will conduct electricity, whether it be a golf club or you're standing next to a light post or barb wire fence, you're in danger," Runnels says.

"You know, I think most people feel immortal which is probably foolish," says Miller.

That's why the National Weather Service has deemed this week Lightning Awareness Week to bring light to the dangers associated with lightning in our area.

"It's not something we recognize as a threat," Runnels says. "But if you add them all up there are almost as many fatalities by lightning than there are from tornadoes."

Missouri ranks the sixth highest state in the nation when it comes to lightning fatalities.

"We average about two people a year in the state of Missouri that die from lightning strikes," Runnels says. "There are places that get more lightning, but we seem to get more fatalities than other states in the union."

Seeking shelter is the most important thing to do when you hear the thunder rumbling.

"As soon as you hear thunder, that's the indication from Mother Nature that you're at risk," Runnels says.

"You want to be able to get to a substantial building or fully enclosed space to be safe and out of the way," says Debora Biggs with the Safety Council of the Ozarks.

Because a round of golf or a big catch at the lake is never worth a life.

"We want people moving to shelter as soon as they hear thunder," Runnels says.

Runnels says it's a growing trend that there are more injuries and fatalities being seen from lightning at kids sporting events so it's really important for parents and coaches to get kids inside right when they hear thunder.

It's also always important to have a plan of action just in case a storm does come.

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