As summer approaches, lighting strikes become larger threat

Updated: Friday, June 20 2014, 06:46 PM EDT
As summer approaches, lighting strikes become larger threat story image
WEST MICHIGAN (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - It's severe weather season, and lightning is a real threat.

Last Wednesday, lightning sparked two fires at two apartment complexes--one in Three Rivers, and the other in Allegan County.

Since May, lightning has killed 7 people nationwide, and the most recent victim was from Ann Arbor.

Newschannel 3 looked into what you need to know to stay safe.

Each year in the U.S., more than 400 people are struck by lightning, and most of the tragedies can be prevented.

"If you can hear thunder, lightning is close enough to strike you," said Jim Maczko, with the National Weather Service. "Even if you are under blue skies, as that thunder roars, you should seek indoor shelter."

In a typical severe weather season in Michigan, we can see tens of thousands--if not hundreds of thousands--of lightning strikes per year.

And with so many outdoor activities in the summer months, Maczko says it's important to know how to be safe.

"When you think about a lightning bolt, it's really  millions of volts of electricity; so when it comes down and strikes the water, trees, or the ground, it spreads out; and that electricity carries for a long way," he said.

Lightning can strike dozens of miles away and with West Michigan offering many things to do either on land or on water, knowing a few simple tips could save your life.

If you happen to be out in the wilderness with no shelter nearby, thinking small is the best thing to do.

"Because lightning tends to strike the tallest object first, be in an open area and make yourself as small as you can," Maczko said.

Or if you are out enjoying the great waters of Lake Michigan or a local lake, head to land as quickly as possible.

"If you are on a boat, you are the tallest object on top of water, and a lot of boats are made of a material that attracts lightning; so you are extremely vulnerable when you are out on water," Maczko said.

You are urged to always monitor the weather and know the forecast in advance.

If any threat for storms is in the forecast, consider postponing the activity to avoid being caught in a dangerous situation.
As summer approaches, lighting strikes become larger threat
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