National Weather Service pushes lightning safety in national campaign

National Weather Service pushes lightning safety in national campaign

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - South Carolina is no stranger to lightning, and according to the National Weather Service, it ranks in the top 15 in the country. Before the Lightning Safety national campaign was launched in 2001, lighting killed an average of 73 people a year. Since then, the average has dropped to 37.

Michael Emlaw with the National Weather Service says as soon as you hear thunder, act quickly. He says avoid open areas and stay away from tall objects.

"You need to get inside. Inside a well-built building because if you can hear thunder your close enough to be struck by lightning."

Emlaw says one of the biggest misconceptions is that lightning will only strike when a storm is right over you.

"It's only going to happen where it's raining, and that's not true, and, unfortunately, some of the fatalities and injuries occur from out of the blue lightning strikes that can come up to maybe 15 miles away from the storm, away from where it's raining, away from where most people would perceive there to be danger."

While the safest place is indoors, if you're caught outside when lightning strikes, the National Weather Service says never lie flat on the ground. Instead, they say lie in a ball with as little ground contact as possible.

"Whether you get a static electricity feeling or your hair stands on end, you'll get that feeling right about the time it's happening. So, if you're ever outside and you have that feeling, you want to squat down on the balls of your feet."

So far in 2014, there have been 7 lightning fatalities: 4 in Florida, 1 each in Michigan, New Mexico and Texas.