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Lightning, Fishing, Foolhardy Guys and Farmers

Lowest-ever U.S. Lightning Deaths Still Striking Outdoorsy Men Most


“When thunder roars, go indoors!”


That’s the first of several reasons less Americans die nowadays of direct hits by lightning bolts: storm safety, slogans and all, has been increasingly popular in recent decades.


A recent report says that only 13 U.S. lightning fatalities occurred in 2017 so far—compared to the 1940s’ yearly average of 300-plus.


Modern medicine has also made great strides in saving strike patients, including greater public prevalence of defibrillators and more CPR-trained bystanders.  Today’s ERs also focus more on treating nerve damage in lightning patients, not burn damage.


Another cause behind the happy new statistics is simply less outdoor time.


More Americans are spending more time indoors or in cars, especially when there’s lightning, the report says—with fatalities dropping 40-fold since the ‘40s and despite a still-growing population.


But a good part of the drop nowadays is an unintended upside of a U.S. demographics downside: less farmers nowadays.


Fewer U.S. farmers today means fewer Americans outdoors in flat open fields where lightning strikes the tallest object, too often a farmer—in turn meaning fewer Americans hit by lightning.


But the report found that men are four times likelier than women to die in U.S. lightning strikes—and that most of 2006-2016’s 352 lightning victims were fishing, camping, beachside or otherwise outdoors near water during storms, when cooler heads headed indoors.


Blend those two stats and you get a profile of the risk-taking, intractable weekend warrior—and the suggestion that, despite lightning deaths still fading, the tough-guy persona isn’t.