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Fishermen, Boaters Urged to Seek Shelter During Thunderstorms

This week is National Lightning Safety Awareness Week, and NOAA's National Weather Service has a stark message for fishermen and boaters: You are not safe outside during a thunderstorm. A new data review of deaths caused by lightning between 2006 and 2012 reveals that water-related activities (fishing, boating, beach, and swimming) make up 36 percent of all leisure-related deaths. Of the 152 lightning deaths that occurred while the victim was participating in a leisure activity, fishing tops the list at 26 deaths. Boating is high on the list at 14 deaths.

John Jensenius, a lightning safety specialist with the National Weather Service, said the large number of fishing and boating lightning deaths may occur because these activities require extra time to get to a safe place. “People often wait far too long to head to safety when a storm is approaching, and that puts them in a dangerous and potentially deadly situation,” he said.

Men make up 82 percent of lightning victims. The study offers possible explanations for this finding: males are unaware of all the dangers associated with lightning, are more likely to be in vulnerable
situations, are unwilling to be inconvenienced by the threat of lightning, are in situations that make it difficult to get to a safe place in a timely manner, don't react quickly to the lightning threat, or any combination of these explanations. In short, because of their behavior, males are at a higher risk of being struck and, consequently, are struck and killed by lightning more often than females.

Lightning can strike from 10 miles away. Fishermen and boaters can best protect themselves against lightning injury or death by monitoring the weather and postponing outdoor activities when thunderstorms are in the forecast. If people can hear thunder, they are in danger of being struck by lightning. Remember the National Weather Service's lightning safety motto: When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors!