Conventional wisdom would have us believe serious lightning strikes are a rarity. But experience says otherwise. Just last week alone lightning started a major wildfire in Box Elder County and sent bolts into a pit where two Kennecott employees were working. In western Germany, lightning struck 32 soccer players, seriously injuring nine of them.
If comets were banging into the Earth at that rate, we'd all spend the rest of our lives in fallout shelters.
Lightning can be lovely. But like a brightly patterned serpent, it is both charming and deadly. "God's fireworks," like all fireworks, will kill if you don't take precautions.
Since 1950, almost a 150 Utahns have been injured by lightning strikes and at least 60 have been killed (100 Americans die from lightning strikes each year). And some strikes have packed a charge of one billion volts. As ventriloquist/humorist Willie Tyler once said, "The reason lightning doesn't strike twice in the same place is the same place isn't there a second time."
The old warnings still apply: If you can get to a building or a car in a lightning storm, do. If you can't, go into a crouch. The bigger the building the better. In 2005, Boy Scout Paul Ostler was killed by lightning even though he was in a shelter.
Avoid waterways, metal objects and even standing too close to other people. And if you see lightning, don't say "I'll wait until it gets closer." If you can see it, you're at risk. Head for cover.
The National Lightning Safety Institute (www.lightningsafety.com) has more information on measures to take.
Sadly, many people remain "lightning illiterate." Some believe, for example, that lightning can't travel through telephone cords. It can. And if you use your cell phone to call someone with a land-based line during a lightning storm, you're putting them at risk.
Many also think golfers are most at risk during lightning bursts. Not so. Some 29 percent of those killed by lightning work in fields, followed by golfers (19 percent) and fishermen (15 percent).
Compared to other dangers close at hand, lightning can seem like a distant threat. But statistics show otherwise. And with fall storms on the horizon and school just getting under way, now is a good time for parents to add a discussion about lightning to the back-to-school "safety briefing" they give their children.