SIDNEY, Ohio -- Two men were fatally struck by lightning over the past week, according to the National Lightning Safety Council, now making five people to have died from lightning this month alone in the United States.
A 50-year-old man died Wednesday during a thunderstorm in Sidney, Ohio. His truck became disabled along a highway, and he was struck by lightning while outside attempting to fix the issue, says the council's John Jensenius. It's the first lightning death in Ohio in nearly three years, but the 11th since 2006.
Then on Saturday, a man in his 30s floating down a creek in Brewton, Alabama was hit by lightning and died. That too was the first lightning death in Alabama in three years though the state has had 21 deaths since 2006.
The deaths come just a week after two others died from lightning strikes around the Fourth of July holiday. A Georgia man was killed while loading tools into a truck along a hilltop, and a North Carolina man was fatally struck at the beach.
Despite the recent tragedies, the number of lightning-related deaths in the nation remains below average. Jansenius says the US averages eight lightning-related deaths in June and 11 by July 12.
Over the past five years, the U.S. has averaged 17 deaths from lightning a year -- though that rate has been steadily dropping since the turn of the century. And that's a credit to a now decades-long effort by the National Lightning Safety Council and National Weather Service to highlight the dangers of lightning and what you can do to stay safe.
"The success of the lightning safety effort has been very rewarding to all of us who have been involved during the past 22 years," Jansenius said. "When we started the effort in 2001, the 10-year average U.S. lightning death toll was 55 deaths a year. That 10-year average has now dropped to 23."
Jansenius and the NLSC have several safety tips you can use to prepare for thunderstorms and how to stay safe when thunderstorms are present.