Lightning Deaths Decline

image001Good news for this Friday – lightning deaths have fallen dramatically since 1940. Using data from the NOAA NWS weather hazards page, reported lightning deaths in the US have declined to the point that they are now one-tenth of the number in the early 1940s.

I am not an expert on lightning deaths. However, I suspect one reason for the decline is due to changes in lifestyle including the end of WW II (less outdoor military training), more people working in offices, fewer people working on farms, etc. The other reason is the better communication over time on the general risk of lightning and better forecasts on the specific risk of thunderstorms.

Even with the decline in the number of deaths, it is still important to respect lightning and seek shelter when needed.

Data Source: http://www.nws.noaa.gov/om/hazstats/resources/weather_fatalities.pdf

Wettest Sites in Illinois for June

After another night of thunderstorms and 2.8 inches in my rain gauge, I wondered who in Illinois was the wettest for June. Here are the 20 wettest sites in Illinois, as of June 26, 2013.

The statewide average precipitation for June through yesterday morning was 4.03 inches. However, it does not include last night’s rain. The statewide 1981-2010 average (aka normal) for June in Illinois is 4.20 inches. By contrast, the statewide average precipitation for June 2012 was only 1.8 inches.

Wettest 20 Sites in Illinois for June 2013.
     BELLEVILLE SCOTT AFB 11.92
                    FLORA 11.06
     BELLEVILLE SIU RSRCH 10.56
        CENTREVILLE 1.9 E 9.98
     MCHENRY STRATTON L&D 9.47
       BELLEVILLE 4.5 WNW 8.99
              TROY 1.4 SE 8.89
         BROOKPORT DAM 52 8.60
           AVISTON 0.4 NW 8.25
                   PATOKA 8.21
               GREENVILLE 8.20
        BELLEVILLE 2.2 SE 8.15
        MASCOUTAH 0.5 WSW 7.98
                 HIGHLAND 7.85
          CLAY CITY 6 SSE 7.85
                 KINMUNDY 7.79
     EDWARDSVILLE 0.9 WSW 7.70
         SHERIDAN 0.1 SSW 7.68
       HARRISBURG 4.6 NNE 7.60
          O’FALLON 2.5 NE 7.51

And if the theme of a wet June feels familiar, here are the posts I did on the wet June of 2010, post #1 and post #2.

Not All of the Corn Belt is Wet

90-Day precipitation departure from normal (1981-2010 average).
90-Day precipitation departure from normal (1981-2010 average).

Here is the latest map of 90-day precipitation departures from average across the Midwest. The greens, blues, and purple show areas that were 2 to 12 inches above average. That is the dominate feature of much of the western and central Corn Belt. Meanwhile, the areas in light tan and yellow in southeastern Indiana, southern and eastern Ohio, and small patches in Kentucky and southern Illinois show areas that are 1 to 4 inches below average. The dry areas are nowhere near as severe as 2012. However, it is worth watching as we move through the growing season.

Lightning Safety Week

Treat lightning with the respect it deserves. Lightning ranks as one of the most serious weather hazards, right up there with floods, tornadoes, and hurricanes (see graph). Because it does its damage in ones and twos, it does not get the same attention as a hurricane or tornado. However, the results can be just as devastating.

Summer (June, July, and August) is the peak season for lightning hazards because it is both the peak for thunderstorms and outdoor activities. Because of the summer spike, the  National Weather Service has declared June 23-29, 2013 as Lightning Safety Week.

Weather fatalities, NOAA. Click to enlarge.
Weather fatalities, NOAA.

A detailed review of recent lightning deaths in the US was done by John Jensenius (NWS).  According to that report, there were 238 people killed between 2006 and 2012. It turns out that golfers (8 deaths in the 7-year study) are not the most likely victims of lightning. More dangerous activities include fishing (26 deaths), camping (15 deaths), boating (14 deaths). Even yard work is more dangerous (12 deaths). Another sobering statistic for us guys is that we account for 82 percent of all fatalities. 

According to another recent study, we have had 102 reported lightning fatalities in Illinois from 1959-2012. And some researchers suggests that these numbers may be too low by 30 to 50 percent because not all lightning deaths are reported as such.  Lightning has likely injured hundreds more in Illinois since 1959.  The injuries can be severe, especially to the brain and nerves. This NOAA webpage outlines the medial aspects of lightning

So treat lightning with the respect it deserves. If you hear thunder, you are likely within striking distance of the storm. Seek shelter immediately. Do not wait. Buildings and vehicles are the best places to seek shelter. Here are more safety resources, including toolkits.

Related links:

Monthly Temperature and Precipitation Departures Since 2011

Here are the monthly temperature and precipitation departures for the state of Illinois since 2011. Departures are from the long-term average (1981-2010).  A few of the outstanding features were:

  • outstanding warming from July 2011 to July 2012;
  • a wet start to 2011 and 2013;
  • drought in 2012, starting in January 2012 and staying in parts of Illinois through at least the end of the year.

Before becoming too complacent about growing conditions this summer, we should remember that we started out with wet conditions in 2011 before a flash drought arrived in July and August. The combination of hot, dry conditions – especially in central Illinois – led to crop losses by the end of August of that year.

Click to enlarge.
Click to enlarge.
Click to enlarge.
Click to enlarge.