September 22, 2022 – Sonia Chavez was on the balcony of her apartment at midday in Dallas when the unthinkable happened: While filming a thunderstorm with her mobile phone, lightning struck her in a flash of bright light and scorching heat that knocked her out. feet.
It was destroyed by the thunderbolt that Chavez portrayed in the movie eyes It left her with some cognitive, speech, and mobility problems.
But she somehow survived.
“When I fell, it looked like a bomb was going off,” Chavez says38. “I felt this intense electric force that hit me hard, like a punch in the gut or injury. It was the biggest pain you could imagine. I remember seeing electricity going off my hands and seeing different colors – blue, then red, then white – and there was a ringing in my ears.
“I don’t remember much after that, but the next thing I knew I was in my apartment closet, I was left-handed and scratching myself to see if I was alive or dead.”
As traumatic as the experience was, Chavez is one of the lucky ones. While she was still recovering from the injuries inflicted by the blow 18 months earlier, she lived to tell her story.
Many other people who have been struck by lightning do not. Lightning deaths are on the increase in the United States, possibly due to the increase in severe storms associated with global climate change.
So far, the United States has recorded 17 deaths from lightning strikes this year, according to the National Weather Service (NWS). That’s more than the 11 that happened by this time last year and a huge number as seen in the entire year of 2020.
“I feel lucky,” says Chavez, who is receiving physical therapy and speech therapy, as well as ongoing treatments to address her. loss of sight from the strike. “I have teams of people helping me, including my husband, who found me in the closet half an hour after it happened [and] Take me to the hospital.”
Aaron Treadway, a lightning specialist with the National Weather Service, explains that lightning bolt survivors like Chavez aren’t as rare as you might think. In fact: Nine out of ten people who are struck by lightning survive an accident.
“On average, lightning strikes about 300 people each year, about 10 percent of them fatally,” Treadway says. “For those who are injured and don’t die, many of them are seriously injured.”
Although deaths from lightning have risen in recent years, they are still much lower than they were 20 years ago, he says. Between 1970 and 2000, the average annual death toll from lightning strikes was more than 70, according to National Weather Service figures.
‘Reduce the death toll [since 2000] This is due to the success of the Safety from Lightning campaign to which many people and organizations have contributed,” Treadway says. These include NWS offices across the country and many of our broadcast partners, print media, outdoor and sports organizations, emergency management officials, and other safety organizations.
Sayings like ‘When Thunder Roars, Go Inoors’ or ‘See a Flash, Dash Inside’ are easy to remember and apply to our deaf and hard of hearing community, keeping people safe.
Lightning strikes: by the numbers
It provides a glimpse into the types of activities individuals were involved in at the time of a fatal strike, providing key clues about how best to avoid risky behavior during a storm.
For example, of the 17 deaths caused by lightning so far this year:
- Five people were injured during camping trips or visits to public parks.
- Four were killed while doing water sports: boating, water skiing or swimming.
- Four were injured while they were working around the house: doing yard work, loading tools into a truck, standing on a roof, and replacing a window.
- Four died while wandering with a dog, flying a remote-controlled plane in a field, repairing a truck on a highway, and during army training.
The National Weather Service has also compiled an exceptional online report Lightning Survivors Databaseincluding detailed interviews, their stories, and the health effects they experienced.
In addition to these personal stories, the National Weather Service has published a wealth of information On these giant sparks of atmospheric electricity that often strike the Earth.
According to the National Weather Service and other federal agencies:
- Holds the typical lightning flash 300 million volts. By comparison, the household current is 120 volts.
- Lightning can heat the air it passes through 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit. It is five times hotter than the surface of the sun.
- Lightning strikes somewhere in the United States 25 million times every year on average.
- Florida is the capital of the Lightning Nation, with the highest average number Strikes from the cloud to the ground, arranged by the number of flashes per square mile. The Sunshine State also has the highest number of deaths of any state due to the frequency of lightning strikes and because most people are outdoors during the height of the lightning season (June to August).
- Florida experiences 1.2 million strikes in a typical year, covering 20 square miles. Next in line: Louisiana (87,5136, 18.9 miles); Mississippi (768126, 16.1 miles); Oklahoma (1.1 million and over, 15.8 mi); and Arkansas (837978, 15.7 miles).
- Globally, the United States recorded the second largest number of lightning strikes in 2021. Brazil ranked first.
- Certain occupations have a higher risk of lightning strikes, including those in the logging, construction, utilities, garden services, and recreational industries, according to the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
National Weather Service officials have also compiled a surprising list of lightning Myths and facts. They are:
- Bending over or lying on the ground in a thunderstorm will not reduce the risk of getting hit. You can still be subject to the ground current from the bolts hitting the ground nearby. It is best to run to a building or vehicle in search of shelter.
- Lightning can strike the same place twice and often it does. The Empire State Building is hit 23 times each year, on average.
- Even if it’s not raining outside, a “thunderbolt out of the blue” can still strike you – literally – because lightning can strike 10 to 15 miles from the center of the storm.
- Metal watches, jewelry and personal electronic devices such as cell phones and handhelds Music Players do not attract lightning.
- Your mother was right: Don’t stand under a tree during a storm. Being under a tree during a storm is the second leading cause of lightning deaths.
Why is the death toll rising and what can you do?
What caused the recent increase in fatal lightning strikes? Treadway says global climate change may be a factor. But he points out that scientists aren’t entirely sure, in part because they haven’t tracked the weather phenomenon for a very long time.
“While a warming climate will produce more components that aid thunderstorm development, in quantitative terms, the recording period for ground lightning detection is rather short,” he explains. “In order to say there is a significant increase in lightning coverage, scientists need a longer period of data to reach these kinds of conclusions.”
But this research has shown that education and awareness or risk can help reduce lightning deaths in general.
“Lightning doesn’t follow the rules; it strikes where you want it to.” “It’s up to the public to take those safety precautions and generally reduce the risk of being struck.”
With that in mind, National Weather Service officials recommend keeping the following Safety Tips And information to consider to reduce risks during an electrical storm:
- If you can hear thunder, the lightning is close enough to strike you, so you should seek shelter in a solid building or vehicle with rolled-up windows.
- Wait 30 minutes after hearing the last crack of thunder before going outside.
- Stay away from landlines, computers, and other electrical equipment that comes into direct contact with electricity during a storm.
- Avoid plumbing, including sinks, bathrooms, and faucets.
- Stay away from windows and doors and don’t venture onto balconies or balconies.
- Do not lie on or lean on concrete walls.
- Avoid higher areas such as hills, mountain ridges, and peaks if you are trapped outside and cannot seek shelter.
- Don’t lie on the ground, and stay away from trees or things that can conduct electricity (such as metal fences or wires, power lines, and windmills).
- Do not swim or go near ponds, lakes, or any other objects Water.
Treadway also recommends checking the weather forecast before engaging in summer outdoor activities and adjusting your plans accordingly.
“About two-thirds of the victims were enjoying outdoor recreational activities before they were hit Water– Related activities top the list,” he notes. Among water-related activities, fishing ranked first, and boating and beach activities also contributed significantly to water-related deaths.
“Camping, ranching/farming, and riding an ATV (bike/motorcycle) also ranked high in the activities people were doing when they got a fatal blow. Among the sports activities, football ranked first, followed by golf and running. … Interestingly Interestingly, about 80% of lightning deaths are men.”
Looking at her experience, Chavez says she knew she would risk standing on her balcony, filming the electrical storm on the day she was struck by lightning. She admits she couldn’t believe she was in danger because it wasn’t raining outside, which she now knows is a serious lie.
She is still recovering.
“I’m in progress,” she says, noting that she has problems with vision and movement. She speaks slowly and deliberately, but frankly, about her experiences.
But Chávez says she is getting her abilities back up little by little every day. She recently returned to work as a project manager and started running again – something she had to give up after the strike.
A surprising twist she attributes to the lightning bolt, she says: The experience has given her a new outlook on life and her mind has become calmer, with less “brain chatter” than before.
“During this journey, I actually feel very fortunate,” she says. “Having a NDE completely changes your outlook on life. Although this caused such havoc in my mind and body, it actually helped my soul.
“The brain chatter that I used to experience has disappeared because I can only focus on the present moment. And for me that is very peaceful. I have just arrived in this different space, and a few other survivors will tell you that they have felt similar things.”
Chavez also says she feels compelled to share her story, believing it may help others avoid what happened to her as well as those who survived the lightning strike.
“There is definitely a need for more education about what happens to people who are affected by a lightning strike [and] who have experienced electric shock in general.” “Many of us experience the same things, they irritate our brains and nervous systems, which is not as rare as you think.
“I want to help as much as possible spread awareness in the hope that it helps someone else.”