Lightning may make for great photos or stories of why you no longer have a tree in your front yard or how your picnic table umbrella become bent over and singed.

Lightning photo courtesy of Thinkstock

But it’s also deadly.

Francisco Juarez, a Tucson man in his 40s, died July 13 after being struck by lightning at Fred Enke Golf Course on July 10.

Juarez is one of dozens killed by lightning every year.

Based on pure numbers, Arizona ranked 15th on the list of states with fatal lightning strikes from 1990 to 2003, according to the National Lightning Safety Institute.

Our lightning death toll was 17.

Top states for lightning deaths during that same period are Florida with 126, Texas with 52 and Colorado with 39. Alaska, Hawaii and Rhode Island had none.

Based on population, Arizona’s lightning fatality rank slips down to 20, with a death rate of 0.24 per million people. Wyoming tops this list with 2.02 deaths per million, followed by Utah with 0.70 and Colorado, again, with 0.65.

The Colorado-based National Lightning Safety Institute also noted some of the freakier lightning deaths and strikes in its home state:

Barbed wire blast
A prison guard at the Sumter Correctional Institute was struck by lightning while working outside in the yard. Lighting hit a fence and then ricocheted about 20 feet to hit the guard, 26-year-old man. He was knocked down and injured but survived.

Struck through motorcycle helmet
A couple riding a motorcycle were hit by lightning in Wright County, Colorado, as they stopped to put on their rain gear. Lighting hit the 56-year-old man in the helmet and a secondary strike hit his 54-year-old wife. He died later in the hospital; she survived.

Tent is no protection
Lightning injured a 42-year-old man who was hiding from the lightning in a tent at a Colorado state park. The lighting blasted through tent and his right shoulder, leaving an exit wound on his foot.

Warning in Tucson park pavilion/Ryn Gargulinski

Two dead in pavilion, one with melted zipper, melded quarters
Two women were killed at another Colorado park while in a park pavilion. The lightning not only killed them, but it also split two of the pavilion’s posts, melted one woman’s jeans zipper and melded two quarters in her pocket.

Fridges and lightning don’t mix
A woman was injured by lightning that struck outside near her home. Her faux pas? She had been holding onto her refrigerator door.

Brace yourself if you have braces
A girl suffered mouth burns from her braces after lightning hit a tree near her home. The strike also sizzled the home’s appliances and electrical equipment.

Moving to Alaska, Rhode Island or Hawaii – or out of Colorado – does not have to be the only way to stay safe from electric storms, as noted by a number of tips from Northwest Fire District:

Lightning safety tips from Northwest Fire District:

If you are inside during a lightning storm:
• Stay indoors
• Stay away from open doors and windows
• Avoid metal objects such as pipes, golf clubs and fishing poles
• Stay off corded phone
• Avoid taking a bath or shower, or running water for any other purpose.
• Avoid contact with electrical appliances such as hair dryers and electric razors – NOTE: Also stay off your computer.

If you are outside during a lightning storm:
• Seek shelter in a building
• If there’s no building, our best protection is a cave or a ditch; don’t stand under a tree
• If no shelter is available, crouch in the open
• Avoid water
• Avoid hilltops, wire fences, and metal items including golf clubs and fishing poles and farm equipment
• If you’re in your car, stay in your car with windows closed

If someone is struck by lightning:

Call for help or get someone to dial 911
The injured person has received an electrical shock and may be burned or have other injuries. People who have been struck by lightning do not retain an electrical charge and can be handled safely.

Give first aid. If breathing has stopped, begin rescue breathing. If the heart has stopped beating, Give Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR). If the person has a pulse and is breathing, look and care for other possible injuries.

And just a few more funky lightning facts from the Institute:

Although rare, lightning can strike an entire group, rather than just an individual. This happened to a group of 10 soldiers who were training at Fort Benning, Georgia. None died or were knocked out, but two suffered amnesia. Nine of them ended up with first-degree skin burns and all 10 had soreness around their eyes. All recovered.

Lighting flashes about 8 million times each day around the world.

Even if a person appears dead, or is technically brain dead, after being struck by lightning, there is a high chance they can be resuscitated.


What do you think?

Have you ever been struck by lightning?

What about anyone you know or anything you owned?