Lightning kills 5 in US during past week

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WATCH: Lightning strikes 2 people in Connecticut

By Kristina Pydynowski for AccuWeather

Lightning claimed a fifth life in the past week across the United States on Saturday.

Scott Pasour, 54, was struck and killed by lightning on Saturday afternoon near the entrance of Mount Mitchell State Park, North Carolina.

Pasour and two other motorcyclists had stopped on the Blue Ridge Parkway to put on rain gear, according to the Gaston Gazette.

The two other men were not hurt and reported that they did not see any lightning or heard any thunder until the deadly lightning bolt.

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Pasour's death marks the fifth lightning death in the past week across the U.S., according to John Jensenius, Jr., Lightning Safety Specialist with the National Weather Service (NWS). That brings the number of lightning deaths across the U.S. to 14.

Three people were killed alone on Thursday, July 14. Franceen Crowl died in Dover, Tennessee, marking the first lightning death in Tennessee since 2007, Jensenius said.

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On average, 49 people are killed by lightning in the U.S. each year. Hundreds more are severely injured, according to the NWS.

With thunderstorms set to rattle several parts of the nation this week, more lives will be at risk.

Anyone planning to spend time outdoors this summer are urged to review key lightning safety tips to avoid becoming another lightning death statistic.

"While only a small number of thunderstorms become strong enough to produce damaging winds, large hail and tornadoes, every thunderstorm produces lightning," AccuWeather Meteorologist Brian Lada said.

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An estimated 25 million flashes of lightning strike every year across the U.S.

"Many lightning strikes are harmless and have very little effect on people and the environment," Lada said. "However, people should keep in mind that it only takes one to endanger lives and cause damage to property."

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As soon as thunder is heard, the danger of being struck by lightning is present. A bolt of lightning can strike people and buildings 10 miles away from where it is raining. In extremely rare cases, lightning has been detected almost 50 miles from the thunderstorm.

If on a beach or in other situations when it is difficult to hear thunder, AccuWeather MinuteCastcan aid alert people to impending thunderstorms.

Make yourself the smallest target possible if you are caught outdoors during a thunderstorm. Crouch down with your knees together and your weight on the balls of your feet. Put your head down and cover your ears. Do not lie flat. The goal is to minimize your height and your body's contact with the ground.

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Never seek shelter underneath a tree. The lightning charge can strike the tree, then cause fatalities up to 100 feet away. Avoid lakes, streams and swimming pools since water conducts electricity.

An umbrella will provide protection from a thunderstorm's rain but could also act as a lightning rod.

A sturdy and enclosed building or a vehicle is the safest place to be during a thunderstorm. Water, windows, plumbing and electrical appliances should be avoided. It is safer to use a cell phone than a cord phone when inside.

"It is a common myth that lightning is attracted to metal," AccuWeather Meteorologist Becky Elliott said. "While metal objects don't attract lightning, they are extremely good conductors of dangerous electricity."

"Lightning usually tries to find the quickest path to the ground. If that path happens to be through anything that conducts electricity, including metal objects and phone cords, the electricity from the bolt will travel easily to whoever is holding it."

The metal frame of a vehicle is what protects people during a thunderstorm, not the rubber tires. Anyone riding a motorcycle or bicycle should seek shelter when a thunderstorm threatens.

Remain inside for 30 minutes after the last rumble of thunder is heard.

If you are with someone who gets struck by lightning, there is no threat of electrocution from touching him/her.

"Cardiac arrest and irregularities, burns and nerve damage are common in cases where people are struck by lightning," according to the NWS.

"However, with proper treatment, including CPR if necessary, most victims survive a lightning strike."

AccuWeather Enterprise Solutions provides lightning warnings and notifications to numerous outdoor venues and events in order protect event goers and employees as well as property. The warnings are customized to businesses' precise geographic area and provide crucial lead time to dangerous lightning strikes.

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