OK, I'll admit it--I am a sucker for a full blown, all out electrical light show...I could sit and watch the spectacular lightning displays for hours on end.  Did you know that Arizona has more lightning than any other western state?

Unfortunately most people greatly underestimate the probability of being hit by a lightning strike.   Sadly, that was brought home on July 13, 2010 for an unlucky golfer in Tucson, AZ who was on the driving range during an intense Monsoon thunderstorm when he was struck and killed. 

A single stroke of lightning has 125,000,000 volts of electricity.  That's enough power to light a 100-watt light bulb for more than 3 months! 

Here are 10 safety tips to follow when you see lightning:

  1. When you hear the roar of thunder go indoors!  The National Weather Service (NWS) recommends "When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors." By counting the seconds between the flash and the thunder and dividing it by 5, you can estimate your distance from the strike.  In the past the NWS recommended the 30-30 rule: if less than 30 seconds pass between the time you see a flash of light and hear the first roll of thunder, immediately seek shelter in the nearest building. However, they now state that the safest course of action is to go indoors as soon as you hear thunder.

  2. Stay away from ANYTHING that conducts electricity.  This includes metal pipes, phones, fireplaces, radiators and sinks.  There are three main ways lightning enters homes and buildings: a direct strike, through wires or pipes that extend outside the structure and into the ground. Regardless of the method of entrance, once in a structure, lightning can travel through electrical lines, phone, plumbing, and radio or television reception systems. Lightning can also travel through any metal wires or bars in concrete walls or flooring.

    Avoid washers and dryers, since they not only have contacts with the plumbing and electrical systems but also contain an electrical path to the outside through the dryer vent.  Avoid contact with electrical equipment or cords. If you plan to unplug any electronic equipment, do so in advance of the storm's arrival.  Avoid contact with plumbing fixtures.  Do not: wash your hands; take a shower; wash dishes; or do the laundry.  

  3. Don’t use any plug-in electrical appliances like hair dryers, electric toothbrushes, or electric razors. If lightning strikes your house they can act as an electrical conduit bringing the charge to you.  

  4. Don’t use the telephone during the storm.  Phone use is the leading cause of indoor lightning injuries in the United States. Lightning can travel long distances in both phone and electrical wires, particularly in rural areas.

  5. Stay in your automobile if you are traveling. Your automobile provides excellent protection in a lightning storm but be sure to keep your hands away from the metal sides. 

  6. Don’t use metal objects outside.  Golf clubs, golfing shoes with metal cleats and fishing rods all made excellent lightning rods.  Keep in mind that an umbrella can increase your chances of being struck if it makes you the largest object in the area.  

  7. Get out of the water. Water is a great conductor of electricity so stay away from and out of swimming pools, ponds, rivers and other bodies of water. 

  8. If you are caught outdoors, seek immediate shelter from lightning! While your best bet when you hear the roar of thunder is to go indoors that isn't always possible.  If you aren't near a building, find protection in a canyon (provided it isn't full of water!), cave or ditch.  Stay away from tall trees as they attract lightning. 

  9. If you can’t find shelter, assume the "Lightning Position".  If you are outside and unable to find shelter or a metal topped vehicle then your best course of action is to assume the "lightning position": crouch down like a baseball catcher on the balls of your feet with your feet together in the lowest spot you can find.  Place your hands on your knees with your head between them, cover your ears and close your eyes.  The goal is to make yourself as small as you can with as little contact with the ground as possible. If you are surrounded by trees, find an open area, making every effort to stay twice as far away from the trees as the trees are high before assuming the "lightning position". 

  10. When your hair stands on end...  If you feel your skin tingle or your hair stands on end — lightning may be about to strike you. Drop to the ground immediately and assume the lightning position. 

Learn more about what causes lightning and other lightning facts.