Golf joins lightning’s ‘deadly dozen’ list

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Every year, hundreds of millions of lightning bolts are detected across the U.S., but only a handful become deadly.

Certain activities that take place outdoors can lead to tragic outcomes and result in about two dozen fatalities every year.

Data compiled by the National Lightning Safety Council this week showed fishing is the top activity that has the most deaths and tops the group’s list that has been dubbed the "deadly dozen."

Other activities such as boating, camping, cycling, and yardwork rank closely behind fishing. According to the council, golf is now one of the 12 activities that have led to the most deaths in the past 17 years.

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Florida, which is home to the most golf courses, unsurprisingly reports more lightning-related golf fatalities than any other state.

The Sunshine State is often home to the most lightning strikes per capita, and with little shelter commonly available, it is a combination that can become deadly.

According to data from 2006-2023, nearly half of the golf-related fatalities involved the victim trying to find shelter underneath a tree during a storm – something that safety experts strongly advise against.

"As the initial lightning channel moves rapidly from the cloud toward the ground, it is simply looking for the closest connection," the NLSC stated. "That closest connection is usually one of the taller objects in the immediate area, which is often a tree. While tall objects don’t attract lightning, they are more likely to be struck. When lightning strikes a tree, the charge doesn’t penetrate deep into the ground, but rather spreads out along the ground surface in something called ground current. That makes the entire area around a tree dangerous and anyone standing under or near a tree is vulnerable to this potentially deadly ground current."

242,101,157 LIGHTNING BOLTS SPOTTED OVER US IN 2023 WITH WIND FARMS, MIAMI TARGETS

Despite the adjustment of the council’s "deadly dozen" list, fatalities relating to lightning strikes have been on a steady decline across the U.S.

In 2023, 14 people were killed by lightning, with almost all taking part in outdoor activities when the thunder roared. Last year’s fatality count was more than 20% lower than in 2022 and close to 65% off from 2016’s count of 40 victims.

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According to the National Weather Service, a bolt can travel 10-12 miles outside of a thunderstorm and can contain 300 million volts of electricity. After impacting a human, it can lead to cardiac arrest and a lifetime of disability if the event does not become fatal.

The odds of being struck are estimated to be 1 in 1,222,000, with the most common month being June.

In 2023, more than 240 million lightning bolts were detected throughout the country, according to global technology company Vaisala.

The Miami–Fort Lauderdale region was considered to be the most lightning-prone metro area in 2023, with Florida’s Palm Bay, Cape Coral, Orlando and Jacksonville all ranking just behind.

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