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Florida #1 in Lightning Deaths, Fishing the Most Lethal


Florida ranks number one in the country in lightning strikes per square mile. So, it should be no surprise that Florida leads in lightning deaths as well.

But what’s eye opening to John Jensenius, a lightning specialist with the National Weather Service, is that 82 percent of the lightning deaths are male.

Also surprising is what they were doing when hit by lightning.

“People assume golf is typically the activity people are involved in,” Jensenius said. “And in reality, fishing sees three times more fatalities than golf. In terms of sports activities even soccer ranks higher than golf.”

He says there’s been a 75 percent drop in golf related lightning deaths since 2001 in part because of a high profile NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) lightning safety campaign in the golf community.

Still, Florida ranks #1 in the country in lightning deaths.

“If we look at say the last 10 years or so, Florida is ranking number one in the country with 52 deaths,” Jensenius said. “That’s about an average of a little over five deaths per year.”

Jensenius said there is no safe place outside when a lightning storm is approaching. It’s best to get inside a building or hard-top car.

He said the biggest killer is that people wait too long to seek cover.

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Bobbie O’Brien has been a Reporter/Producer at WUSF since 1991. She reports on general news topics in Florida and the Tampa Bay region.
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