All Weather News

U.S. 2015 Lightning Fatalities up to 22 – Nearly Matching 2014 Total

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A 62-year-old man was struck and killed by lightning in California on Saturday, bringing the total of lightning-related fatalities in the United States to 22 so far in 2015  – nearly the equivalent of all of 2014’s lightning-related fatalities.

Bakersfield, California authorities believe the man’s was caused by lightning, WeatherNation affiliate KBAK reported on Monday, as Stephen Ermigarat was found unresponsive underneath a tree outside a home on Saturday. Officials believe they have evidence that the tree was struck by lightning. Storms from the remnants of Tropical Storm Dolores were in the area, delivering historic rainfall to southern California over the weekend.

The latest fatality brings the official total of U.S. lightning fatalities, according to the National Weather Service, up to 22, just four shy of 2014’s year-long total.

Perhaps the biggest tear-jerker of a story comes from WeatherNation affiliate 9News in Denver, Colorado, where a newly-wedded couple was hiking Mount Yale in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains on Friday, but the new bride was struck and killed by lightning, while the husband was released from the hospital just this week.

Many of the lightning-related fatalities have come in traditional hot spots – the Southeast and areas of higher elevation. Florida, often referred to as America’s lightning capital due to a near-daily frequency of widespread thunderstorms, is tied for the most lightning-related fatalities with three, along with Alabama and Colorado. Colorado typically sees high numbers of lightning fatalities due to its increased elevation and added exposure from outdoor activities such as hiking in wide areas of open space above tree lines.

If you’re trying to figure out how far away thunder is from where you are, count the amount of seconds between lightning and the accompanying thunder and divide by five. Five seconds between the flash of lightning and hearing thunder roughly equals one mile, meaning 10 seconds equals two miles, 15 seconds equals three, and so on. Regardless, any time you can hear thunder (lightning has been known to strike people within 20 miles of a strike), you are close enough to be struck!

Remember the old saying: when thunder roars, head indoors!

Meteorologist Chris Bianchi

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