Stay safe from summer's deadly storms


May 22, 2013 3:06:21 PM PDT
Summer is the peak season for one of the country's deadliest weather phenomena -- lightning.

On average, more than 50 people are killed each year by lightning and hundreds more are severely injured, according to the National Weather Service.

Lightning typically does not get the publicity it should, but it is one of the top three weather-related killers in the U.S., claiming more lives than tornadoes and hurricanes combined. Only heat and flash flooding cause more casualities.

Furthermore, North Carolina is one of the top five states in the country for lightning-related deaths and injuries.

Tim Berenyl is the director of operations for Garner Baseball Inc. He prepared the baseball field for makeup games Wednesday night because Monday and Tuesday games were cancelled because of storms. He says a combination of decisions factor into delaying a game or calling it off completely.

"If the games are in progress, then it's obviously the umpire's call. They would stop play based on the seeing, most likely, of lightning," Berenyl said.

An open field is one of the last places people want to be when a storm rolls in.

ABC11 meteorologist Don Schwenneker says people often wait far too long to take cover when thunderstorms approach.

"If you hear thunder, you can be struck," Schwenneker said. "If you're standing under a picnic shelter or you're standing in a baseball dugout that doesn't have electricity, lightning flows like water. It can actually flow around the picnic shelter and zap everyone underneath; those are terrible places to be."

The best place to go during a thunderstorm is inside a sturdy building. If that's not an option, taking shelter in a car is the next best option.

Pullen Park is now using a new lightning detection system, alerting staff to shut down outdoor activities when lightning is just miles away. Park officials say the device has come in handy this week, especially Tuesday.

"All of a sudden a storm forms right over us, then we were able to pull them off immediately," Pullen Park assistant manager Greg Thompson said.

For more lightning safety tips from the National Weather Service, click here.

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