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Chicago Urban Gardening

The day to day experiences of a University of Illinois Extension Urban Horticulture Educator in Chicago, Illinois

Lightning Kills

Posted by Ron Wolford -

With hot summer temperatures comes the increased risk of thunderstorms. Lightning reportedly kills an average of 67 people each year in the United States.

Duane Friend, University of Illinois Extension natural resources educator, offers these tips to protect yourself and your family from a lightning strike.

  • When you see lightning, count the time until you hear thunder. If that time is 30 seconds or less, the thunderstorm is within 6 miles and is dangerous. Seek shelter immediately.
  • Do not stand under or next to a tree. If you cannot get to an indoor location, crouch in the open, keeping twice as far from a tree as it is tall.
  • If you are with a group of people outdoors, keep several yards distance from each other. Unless well grounded, open pavilions or other small shelters will not provide adequate protection.
  • Lightning can enter a building through a direct strike, through wires or pipes that extend outside the structure, or through electrical, phone, plumbing and radio/television antennas. If you are indoors, avoid contact with corded phones and electrical equipment. Also avoid contact with plumbing, and do not lie or lean on concrete floors and walls. Stay away from windows and doors, and stay off porches.
  • Typical surge protectors will not protect equipment from a lightning strike. During a storm, appliances and electronic equipment, including antenna connections, should be unplugged to the extent possible.

If someone is struck by lightning, call 911 or other emergency services. Check the victim's breathing and pulse, and begin CPR if necessary and if you are trained to do so. The victim may have burns where lightning entered and left the body, broken bones, loss of hearing or eyesight, and other nervous system damage.

For more information on lightning safety, visit

Photo Credit: NOAA Photo Library, NOAA Central Library; OAR/ERL/National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL)

Source: Duane Friend, University of Illinois Extension Natural Resources Educator

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