Local Lightning Injury Illustrates Danger of Summer Storms | DC Metro Area Personal Injury Law Blog

Local News4 has reported that a 18-year-old Oxon Hill, Maryland girl recently was struck by lightning, and later died from her serious injuries. She was waiting beneath a tree at a bus stop.  It was National Lightning Safety Week.  Last year alone, 246 U.S. residents were injured by lightning and 47 were killed.  Experts recommend that if you find yourself outdoors in lightning, you should quickly take shelter in a large, enclosed building — its wiring and plumbing will direct lightning bolts away and from you and into the ground.  If one isn’t available, the next safest place is an enclosed metal vehicle (though not a convertible).  Carports, pavilions or sheds without electricity or plumbing are not safe.

The Fairfax County Office of Public Affairs offers this additional lightning safety advice on their website:

If Outdoors:

  • “Do not seek shelter under tall isolated trees. The tree may help you stay dry but will significantly increase your risk of being struck by lightning.
  • Do not seek shelter under partially enclosed buildings.
  • Stay away from tall, isolated objects. Lightning typically strikes the tallest object. That may be you in an open field or clearing.
  • Stay away from metal objects, such as fences, poles and backpacks. Metal is an excellent conductor and the current from a lightning flash will easily travel for long distances.
  • As a precaution, do not place your campsite in an open field on the top of a hill or on a ridge top. Keep your site away from tall isolated trees or other tall objects. If you are in a forest, stay near a lower stand of trees. If you are camping in an open area, set up camp in a valley, ravine or other low area. A tent offers no protection from lighting.”

If Indoors:

  • “Avoid contact with corded phones.
  • Avoid contact with electrical equipment or cords. If you plan to unplug any electronic equipment, do so well before the storm arrives.
  • Avoid contact with plumbing. Do not wash your hands, do not take a shower, do not wash dishes and do not do laundry.
  • Stay away from windows and doors, and stay off porches.
  • Do not lie on concrete floors and do not lean against concrete walls.”

Occasionally, motorcyclists and bicyclists are caught outside in lightning, too.  In such a situation, the National Weather Service says these emergency recommendations may save your life:

  • “Wait out the storm below an overpass. DO NOT touch steel girders. Move away from your bike. Remain on dry surfaces if possible. Overpasses are engineered structures and are likely to be properly grounded. Although an overpass is likely to be higher than the surrounding landscape, if it is struck by lightning, the electrical current will likely be channeled safely into the ground.
  • Look for a bridge. Stay away from water. Stay away from any metal surfaces. Be alert for rapidly rising water if under a bridge.
  • High tension wires: If high voltage electrical tension wires cross the road, you may want to seek shelter directly underneath these wires. Do not get too close to the large metal towers which hold up these wires. Stay at least 50 feet away. Electric companies design these high tension wires for lightning strikes. If lighting should strike the wires or towers, the current is designed to safely go deep into the ground.
  • If you are caught in the open and lightning is occurring within 5 miles, STOP riding, get off of your motorcycle/bicycle, find a ditch or other low spot and sit down.
  • Motorcyclists should move at least 50 feet away from their bike. Bicyclist should lay their bikes on the ground.”

We urge all of our friends and clients to use good judgment and avoid being caught in inclement weather whenever possible.

For information about your legal rights, please click here or call the law firm of Regan Zambri & Long, PLLC at (202) 753-4272.