The odds of being struck by lightning are famously low — lightning kills only about 50 people in the entire U.S. each year — but this region has seen several strikes recently.
On Sunday, lightning struck at Pocono Raceway, killing one person and injuring nine. On Friday, a Delaware family was struck by lightning and injured. And in July, a pregnant Pennsylvania woman was killed by a lightning strike while seeking shelter under a pine tree.
Are we seeing more severe thunderstorms this summer? And how do you stay safe?
With high temperatures and humidity, summer thunderstorms are quick and intense, but this summer isn’t any different from other summers says NBC 10 meteorologist Sheena Parveen.
“It could be unusual that this many people have been struck within a couple of weeks, but seeing thunderstorms forming in the summer, this quickly — not really unusual,” said Parveen.
During the summer months, Parveen says, it’s important to keep an eye on the sky. When dark clouds appear and a thunderstorm is approaching, head indoors.
And as for knowing how far away the storm is, Parveen says a lot of people are not counting correctly.
“Where you see lightning, you count, ‘one Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi,’ and then you hear the thunder and you say ‘Oh, that’s 3 miles away,'” explained Parveen. “Actually, it’s about 4.5 seconds equals one mile, so if you count to four or five seconds, it’s not four or five miles away, it’s a mile away. So it’s a lot closer than you think.”
During a thunderstorm, says Parveen, don’t use electrical appliances or the phone, and stay out of the shower.
There is plenty of folk wisdom such as urging people to lie down in an open field if they can’t find shelter. It’s less clear which of those tactics truly cut your risk of getting hit by lightning. The National Weather Service advises those who can’t reach a car or building to avoid standing next to isolated tall trees.